Scott Morrison’s Facebook page is spending $ 2,000 on ads targeting the Indian community in Australia to explain the travel ban.

The The ban prevents Australians who have been in India in the past 14 days from returning to Australia, with threats of fines and imprisonment if they return. The government says it was enacted in response to the high number of Covid-19 cases in India, but since it was announced, Morrison has been mitigating allegations that the policy is racist.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister launched three sponsored videos Facebook, including subtitles in Hindi and Punjabi where he speaks directly to the camera about the ban.

In the nearly nine-minute video, Morrison states that the Indian community in Australia is a “generous and kind community” going through a difficult time.

“I know this is a time of great pain and fear as many families in Australia have lost theirs in India,” he says in the video. “You know that we are facing a developing humanitarian catastrophe in India.”

But he explained the decision to ban the return of Australians from India on the basis of medical advice. He said the “temporary” break will be rescheduled on May 15 and checked every day before.

One of the unsubtitled videos, which ran for a day and was supposed to reach between 500,000 and 1 million people, cost $ 800 to $ 900. Two videos with subtitles in Hindi and Punjabi that are still running at the time of publication are expected to hit between 100,000 and 500,000 and 50,000 and 100,000 respectively. These two videos cost $ 900 to $ 1,100 together, bringing the total to nearly $ 2,000.

Ads served by Scott Morrison’s Facebook page aimed at the Indian community in Australia. Photo: Facebook

In a Facebook group of the Indians in Australia with more than 34,000 members, a comment on the video indicated that it was a damage control for the next federal elections.

According to Facebook’s ad library where the information was posted, Morrison’s Indian community advertising was not in the top 20 political ad spend in Australia last week. Many ads related to the Tasmania and Mindaroo Foundation elections are around the corner. The Thrive by Five project surpassed spending to $ 50,000 last week.

The online advertising surge is coming As Secretary of Immigration, Alex Hawke holds a series of roundtable meetings with Indian community leaders in Australia to explain the policy and hear their concerns. He held his sixth meeting on Thursday.

Turbans 4 Australia founder Amar Singh met Hawke at one of the round tables and said he was looking for a solid government plan of what will happen if the ban is lifted but left the meeting for want.

“I couldn’t make anything of this meeting to that extent,” he said. “In order for them to announce this ban, more information must be made available to the community here and to the people trapped in India.”

In India, an estimated 9,000 Australians are waiting to return to Australia. Singh said the government gave very little information to the people of India.

“It has certainly hurt a lot of people and they feel denied by their own country,” he said. “For someone stuck there, the financial burden on their family is enormous and they have no fallback.”

Singh said the risk of dying from Covid-19 in India is also a major risk due to a lack of intensive care beds and oxygen. He said the online discussion among the Indian community in Australia was that the travel ban policy would affect votes for the Morrison government in the next election.

“There are people in WhatsApp and Facebook groups who say we won’t vote liberally next time,” he said. “It’s not me, it’s you.”

Singh said his organization is happy to help the government in any way it can, including with resources to plan to get out of the ban or provide language support if necessary.

At a press conference Thursday, when asked what the Australian government is doing to help vulnerable or sick Australians in India, the Prime Minister said that consular assistance was available and that “Australia will soon be bringing people home from India. ”

“Had we not made the last decision we made, we would have jeopardized our ability to do so on a sustainable basis,” he said. “We made this decision in the interests of the health and safety of Australians and the national interests and the health and safety of those we want to bring home.”

Guardian Australia has contacted Hawke’s office for comment.