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Former Northgate pupil trapped in Australia unable to fly home

PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:04 28 March 2020

Caoimhe Cavanagh-O’Neill, of Ipswich, is stranded in Australia after flights were grounded due to coronavirus Picture: SUPPLIED

Caoimhe Cavanagh-O’Neill, of Ipswich, is stranded in Australia after flights were grounded due to coronavirus Picture: SUPPLIED

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A young woman from Ipswich has been trapped in Australia during her year abroad as the borders of all Asian countries for connecting flights close to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Caoimhe Cavanagh-O'Neill is trapped in Australia on her gap year trip. Picture: CAOIMHE CAVANAGH-O'NEILLCaoimhe Cavanagh-O'Neill is trapped in Australia on her gap year trip. Picture: CAOIMHE CAVANAGH-O'NEILL

Caoimhe Cavanagh-O’Neill was working in Melbourne at a karaoke bar when the orders came for pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas to close down on Sunday March 22.

The 20-year-old had been travelling around Queensland, Bali and Victoria before getting to Melbourne on a working holiday visa.

She had been travelling since September, after spending a year working at the Woolpack pub by Christchurch Park to save for her big year away after completing her A-Levels at Northgate Sixth Form College.

“I was having a great time until the moment when I decided I wanted to go home and couldn’t” she explained.

Caoimhe at a piano in Melbourne. Picture: CAOIMHE CAVANAGH-O'NEILLCaoimhe at a piano in Melbourne. Picture: CAOIMHE CAVANAGH-O'NEILL

“When they gave the order to close down I lost my job and took a look at flights because I thought what is the point of staying out here with no money.

“Within two days of the order all flights were priced at a minimum of £5,000 and I was waiting for my mum to transfer me money when I watched the last three seats home get booked by someone else.”

Caoimhe’s mum, Brenda, has been desperately seeking help to get her daughter home and has contacted Ipswich MP Tom Hunt to ask if he can lobby for a repatriation flight.

“My main concern is keeping her spirits up,” the mother-of-two said. “She’s alone abroad for the first time and it’s quite scary.”

Queues outside Aldi in Melbourne. Picture: CAOIMHE CAVANAGH-O'NEILLQueues outside Aldi in Melbourne. Picture: CAOIMHE CAVANAGH-O'NEILL

All planes flying to the UK require a refuelling stop halfway, however most of the Asian countries which usually provide the connection have closed their borders and are currently refusing to let anyone land.

“I watched the way Italy was going and should have seen that as the UK followed so would Australia,” the backpacker added. “I should have seen this coming but it was too late by the time I realised.

“Now I just want to come home but I’m trapped here with the hundreds of other Brits who were backpacking.

“Due to our visas we can’t claim any money and there are no jobs, there’s nothing here for me.”

Brenda Cavanagh, Caoimhe's mother, is worried about her daughter being trapped so far away from home. Picture:BRENDA CAVANAGHBrenda Cavanagh, Caoimhe's mother, is worried about her daughter being trapped so far away from home. Picture:BRENDA CAVANAGH

Caoimhe is currently trying to get her name onto the list of British citizens stranded abroad as her last hope of getting home.

Tom Hunt said: “My Office has been in close contact with constituents stuck in Oceania where the time difference is greater.

“Regarding the case of Caoimhe Cavanagh-O’Niell, my office is treating this case urgently and contact is being made with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“I urge all constituents who are stuck abroad to get in contact with my Office. My team and I stand ready to help everyone stranded overseas find a way home.”

A petition 38 Degrees has been launched to bring home British citizens stranded in Australia and is asking Dominic Raab for help.


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