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Failure to resettle remaining offshore detainees to cost Australia $1.2 billion

Media Release

New figures released today reveal that the Australian Government’s failure to finalise resettlement for 535 offshore detainees currently in PNG and Nauru could cost taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 3 years.

The independent economic modelling, commissioned by Save the Children Australia, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) and GetUp!, calculates the cost of offshore processing to be in excess of $573,000 per offshore person, per year.

Updating the report released by Save the Children and UNICEF Australia in 2016, today’s report outlines the economic cost of not resettling the remaining 535 people who remain offshore.

Director of Policy and International Programs for Save the Children, Mat Tinkler said the high cost of offshore processing shouldn’t be forgotten.

“We’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of offshore processing on children, but this report shows that offshore processing continues to come at a huge financial cost to Australian taxpayers.

“Better and more affordable alternatives to indefinite and offshore mandatory detention exist, and there is an opportunity for the Government to change course and embrace greater regional cooperation which continues to disincentivise unsafe travel by boat but also minimises harm to asylum seekers and refugees.”

ASRC Advocacy Director, Jana Favero said:

“More than 6 years of offshore processing has cost Australians billions of dollars, taken 12 lives, and harmed the physical and mental health of 1000s of refugees and people seeking asylum.

“The Morrison government must negotiate to find a permanent solution to urgently resettle people held indefinitely for none other than its own political agenda.”

Shen Narayanasamy, founder of corporate responsibility organisation No Business in Abuse and Human Rights Director at GetUp said:

“The responsibility for this $1.2 billion cost sits squarely with this government’s abject failure to resolve the offshore situation.

“Keeping people detained offshore indefinitely isn’t just morally irresponsible, it makes no economic sense.”


In total 3,127 people seeking asylum have been detained on the islands of Manus and the Republic of Nauru since offshore processing began in 2013.

Despite some attempts at resettlement, six years later, 535 people are still trapped offshore, the vast majority (83%) assessed as refugees with a further 39 yet to be processed.

The updated analysis outlines that on the available public information, without the removal of the final 535 people to safety and resettlement, offshore processing will cost Australian taxpayers $1.2 billion over three years (2020-2023).

For each offshore person, the cost is more than $573,000 per year, compared to $10,221 per person, per year for those living in the community on bridging visas.

In At What Cost, Save the Children and UNICEF Australia argued that the human, strategic and economic cost of Australia’s offshore processing regime was untenable without significant variation.

The analysis found that the financial costs of at least $9.6 billion were incurred by Australian taxpayers between 2013 and 2016 in maintaining offshore processing, onshore mandatory detention and boat turn-backs.

The full At What Cost report released today is available here.


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  1. Ill fares the land

    But when national security, sorry, I mean “keeping Australians safe” the pursuit of a mindless ideological agenda come first, what does the cost matter?

    But we are seeing this in the wrong way – look at how much money we are SAVING by allowing tens of thousands to come to Australia by plane, to apply for asylum after they falsely get a tourist visa and to then live out in the community under a bridging visa. Look how much it would cost to send them all to Christmas Island or Nauru.

    No, we’ve got this wrong – the saving, oh and the money saved by deliberately underfunding the NDIS, provided the surplus that we all so desperately craved. I don’t know about you, but this gives me a warm feeling inside, although that could be my inner rage.

  2. New England Cocky

    Scummo is following the too long trodden path of destroying the Australian economy by indebtedness to foreign owned banks so that in turn those same banks will be able to lean on subsequent Federal governments and impose policies that favour the sale of Australian assets and natural resources to foreign owned multinational corporations, frequently clients of those same banks.

    There is little doubt that the Morriscum Lazy Nasty People misgovernment is making Australia into the worst foreign owned third world export economy on the OECD for the benefit of financial patrons of those same parties.

  3. king1394

    National security would be much better served by speedy and fair processing of claims, followed by approptiate settlement options.

  4. Pete Petrass

    We have already seen how this mob have nearly tripled the country’s debt in the past 6 years so the evidence is pretty clear that they will continue at ANY cost. 6 years of cuts and cancelling and still they nearly triple the national deficit. One could be forgiven for wondering where has all the money gone???

  5. Terence Mills

    Let’s not forget that a class action brought by Manus detainees for false imprisonment has already settled and cost us (i.e Australian taxpayers) $70 million for 1923 detainees : probably around $30,000 each after costs.


    There are more such claims underway and will cost us many more millions by the time the Nauru cases get to court.

    Peter Dutton will probably have left parliament and be tending his extensive property portfolio when this has all washed through the system. Dutton and Morrison have taken us for mugs.

  6. Baby Jewels

    1.2 billion dollars for Australia’s inhumanity to refugees. We could have put them up in 5 star hotels with guards on the door for that, and saved our trashed reputation. Australians should be jumping up and down about this. Also, someone’s making an awful lot of money for doing very little, out of this ugly debacle. At the expense of services to ordinary Australians. If nobody ends up in jail for this, then I’m in the wrong country.

  7. RomeoCharlie29

    The bastard government, it’s scumbag PM and the execrable spud, should face prosecution for their colossal waste of taxpayer funds on the fanatical persecution of a small group of people who attempted to do something (come to Australia as asylum seekers) that is guaranteed them by International treaties to which Australia once subscribed, and indeed helped write. If one considers the hellishing cost of these inhumane policies both past and predicted, then add in the hidden extras like the cost of flying refugees around the world, and the money individuals and organisations have had to spend defending and supporting the rights of these people, it amounts to an astounding sum, wasted, yes wasted, by this government. Meanwhile their pernicious and now finally discredited robodebt scheme, their trashing of traditions of ministerial propriety and accountability, their mismanagement of the economy and their wilful blindness to the effects of climate change have shown them to be, collectively, unworthy of the position they hold. Can we mount a class action case to have them held responsible, with gaol terms if necessary? I would join a gofundme campaign for that

  8. Terence Mills

    The government are crowing over their win in repealing Medevac Laws with Jacqui Lambie joining the coalition in exchange for a benefit to her that has yet to be revealed.

    The government already wrote-off Tasmania’s public housing debt to get Lambie’s vote on something else but nobody is saying what the deal has been this time .

    Humble apologies to those in their seventh year of detention on Manus and Nauru, you have been used as a political pawn : just don’t get sick !

    I hang my head in shame.

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