The government can trim the Immigration Department’s budget from blowing out in the vicinity of $3 billion this Tuesday by putting time limits on detention and funding more community release places for asylum seekers, the Australian Greens say.
“It’s 90 percent cheaper and 100 percent fairer for asylum seekers to live in the community once health and security checks prove it’s safe than warehousing them in detention centres,” Greens’ immigration spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said today.
“Given community release schemes cost an average $10,400 per asylum seeker per year, against more than $137,000 annually in a detention centre, it’s clear which scheme is a better use of taxpayers’ money.
“Detention centres in remote areas are even dearer to run than those in capital cities, meaning Serco is the main beneficiary with Fairfax reporting the UK firm’s profit exploding by 45 percent in the past year.
“Putting time limits on detention would save taxpayers money and help the Immigration Department to reign in its operating costs, as well as reducing overcrowding and isolation complications.
“The secondary effect would be a fall in mental illnesses among asylum seekers because they would know they would be soon living in the community while their protection claim is assessed, not warehoused indefinitely as happens now.
“The recent Joint Select Committee into Australia’s Immigration Detention Network recommended time limits on detention, as have experts including Amnesty International, for the cost and health benefits which would flow from that policy change.
“The Gillard government is confronted with two choices this Tuesday night – costly indefinite mandatory detention which do not deter desperate asylum seekers, or more community release schemes which are working well.
“One failed scheme costs close to $3 billion over the forward estimates, while the other is a fraction of that and shows Australia is a compassionate country that abides by its international responsibilities.
“The choice before Treasurer Swan should be an easy one to make, but we Greens won’t be holding our breath he’ll take it.”