How much does Offshore Processing cost the Australian Taxpayer?

Jenni from UNLOAD AND UNWIND wrote the following in one of her blogs:

“Here is a government that has cut funding to Domestic Violence Support Centers, shelters and assistance packages to an all time low and telling us it was necessary due to a budget emergency left to them by the previous government.  At the same time they increased funding to ‘border protection’ and ‘stopping the boats’ by 129% growing from $118 million to $3.3 billion dollars in 12 months.  On top of this they have increased funding to a variety of law enforcement agencies but only as it applies to terrorism, as well as $670 million for new measures to deal with terrorism.”


I just  found  some report details from last year. I think they make for very interesting reading. I wonder how many people in Australia would know anything about these details and be concerned about it?


Commission of Audit report details

Offshore processing costs Australian taxpayers 10 times more than letting asylum seekers live in the community while their refugee claims are processed, the Commission of Audit’s report reveals.

It costs $400,000 a year to hold an asylum seeker in offshore detention, $239,000 to hold them in detention in Australia, and less than $100,000 for an asylum seeker to live in community detention.  In contrast, it is around $40,000 for an asylum seeker to live in the community on a bridging visa while their claim is processed.

Relative cost per person for 12 months in detention, 2013
Source: Department of Finance, reproduced in Commission of Audit report.

The Commission of Audit’s report shows that in the past four years, the Australian government has increased spending on the detention and processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat by 129 per cent each year.  Costs have skyrocketed from $118.4 million in 2009–10 to $3.3 billion in 2013–14.

This is the fastest growing government programme.  Projected costs over the forward estimates amount to over $10 billion.

At a time of fiscal constraint, this is an obvious policy area where expenditure could be slashed.  Savings should not come from reducing services to asylum seekers (a solution proposed by the Commission of Audit).  Services – such as healthcare, counselling, and legal assistance – are already limited and inadequate.  Their reduction would only exacerbate the already precarious circumstances of asylum seekers in detention.

Offshore processing and mandatory detention are inhumane and unnecessary policies that violate Australia’s international legal obligations.  They cause and exacerbate psychological harm, mental illness and trauma.  They have led to many instances of self-harm, and as the events of February 2014 on Manus Island show, serious physical injury and even death.

– See more at:


The Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW is the world’s first research centre dedicated to the study of international refugee law. It was established in October 2013 through the generosity of Andrew Kaldor AM and Renata Kaldor AO, motivated by their deep concern about Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Through high-quality research feeding into public policy debate and legislative reform, the Centre brings a principled, human rights-based approach to refugee law and forced migration in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and globally. It provides an independent space to connect academics, policymakers and NGOs, and creates an important bridge between scholarship and practice. It also provides thought leadership in the community through public engagement and community outreach.

4 thoughts on “How much does Offshore Processing cost the Australian Taxpayer?

  1. This is great – I’ve shared it on FB and Tweeted it – the information is right there for those who have the eyes to read it and the will to believe. Thanks for the info.

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