The Pacific Solution – $1 billion Spent on Refugees
Monday, 27th August 2007 at 11:47 am
A new joint-report by Oxfam and A Just Australia claims Australian taxpayers have paid $500,000 for every refugee dealt with under the Federal Government’s Pacific Solution.
The two social justice organisations have called for urgent reform of Australia’s asylum seeker policies six years after the 2001 Tampa crisis.
The groups claim that the Pacific Solution has so far squandered $1 billion of taxpayers’ money, exacerbated mental illness of refugees and was operating without scrutiny.
The report called ‘A Price Too High: The cost of Australia’s approach to Asylum Seekers,’ presents new research that found since 2001 it has cost the Australian taxpayer more than $500,000 per person to process fewer than 1,700 asylum seekers in Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island.
By comparison, the latest estimate from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship suggests that the cost of holding asylum seekers in a mainland Australian detention centre is only 3.5% of the running costs of the Pacific Solution.
The Executive Director of Oxfam Australia, Andrew Hewett says the Pacific Solution is neither value for money nor humane.
The research found that The Pacific Solution has been both costly to the nation’s taxpayers as well as to the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers who have had to endure years of isolated offshore detention, compounding post traumatic stress disorder after having fled persecution from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
National Coordinator of A Just Australia, Kate Gauthier says the Pacific Solution has failed robbing vulnerable people who arrive by boat in Australia of their dignity and health.
She says the culture of unaccountability exposed in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that saw Australian citizens Vivian Solon and Cornelia Rau detained continues in the Pacific Solution.
‘A Price Too High’ also found:
– Manus Island has been empty since 2004 but is maintained at an annual cost of $2 million in readiness for new asylum seekers
– it costs $1,830 per detainee a day to keep someone on Christmas Island compared to $238 per detainee a day at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre
– evidence of multiple asylum seeker mental health problems including self harm as well as attempted suicide as a result of prolonged isolation in offshore detention centres, where access to mental health services such as counseling and psycho-social support are limited or non-existent
– a lack of hospital infrastructure in offshore processing centres leading to the unnecessary death of a 26-year old asylum seeker with no known physical and mental problems on Nauru in 2002
– The Pacific Solution fails to uphold Australia’s commitment under international law not to return refugees to a place where she or he might face persecution or even death
– Government claims that the Pacific Solution is an efficient and effective means of achieving refugee protection and immigration control are false
According to the study, the Australian Government must immediately reform the present system and:
– end the Pacific Solution as well as offshore detention and processing of asylum seekers on Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island. Instead all asylum seekers should be processed in mainland Australia
– initiate an Australian National Audit into the full financial cost of the Pacific Solution
– improve asylum seekers access to legal assistance, medical care and social support
– ensure that asylum-seekers currently held on Nauru have their claims processed quickly and be offered resettlement in Australia if successful
– transform the overseas development assistance program to Nauru to focus on the Millennium Development Goals of poverty reduction, primary health care and basic education
– commission research to determine whether The Pacific Solution has impacted upon the number of people arriving in Australia by boat
The groups have called for an immediate end to costly and inhumane offshore processing and an urgent reform of Australia’s asylum seeker policies to ensure that people claiming asylum have their cases processed quickly, accountably and are treated humanely.