Detention on Manus Island and Nauru alone cost the government $1.2 billion in the year to June 2015. This enormous sum could instead reverse government cuts and boost spending on health and education. It is a stark example of the government’s priorities.
Detaining a single asylum seeker on Manus or Nauru costs $400,000 per year. Detention in Australia costs $239,000 per year. By contrast, allowing asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are processed costs just $12,000 per year, one twentieth of the cost of the offshore camps, and even less if they are allowed the right to work.
The Liberals are running a scare campaign about refugees. They seek to paint refugees as “economic migrants”, “country shoppers” or worse, equate refugees with terrorists. In reality, approximately 90% of those who arrive by boat are legitimate refugees, and no refugee has ever been convicted of a terrorist offence in Australia.
Before the election, Abbott promised “no cuts to health, no cuts to education.” Their arrogance and refusal to answer questions about Operation Sovereign Borders also shows this government’s lies and deceit on asylum seekers. The government clearly has plenty to hide.
The government loves to claim success in “stopping the boats”. They use his claim that refugees are some kind of threat as a scapegoat to try to distract attention from budget cuts and attacks on workers—and the fact that the real threat to our living standards is the Liberal government.
It claims that stopping the boats is about saving lives at sea. But processing asylum claims in Indonesia and flying those found to be refugees to Australia would save lives, and cost a fraction of the cost of detention.
Keeping thousands of asylum seekers locked in camps to deter others is a miserable and cowardly act. Effectively this government is saying “no matter what horrors you’ve come from, we’ll treat you worse in Australia. So die somewhere else.”
The government’s claim that it will be able to save millions of dollars by stopping the boats and being able to close detention centres is another lie. As the boats that arrived from Sri Lanka and India in July carrying 41 and 157 Tamil asylum seekers have shown, people fleeing persecution will continue to ask for help, no matter how cruel Australia tries to be. There is no need to cut welfare, make you pay for the doctor, increase the cost of your education, and slash funding to hospitals.
The government will continue to waste billions of dollars sending asylum seekers to the camps on Nauru and Manus Island until we demand humane policies.