Australia’s refugee detention programme is supposed to save the country* while saving the country money.
Neither is true.
Minister in charge of the programme Peter Dutton is down to arguing that a flood of "illiterate and innumerate" refugees “would be taking Australian jobs, there's no question about that." It surely makes you wonder how poorly Australians must be doing their jobs if they would be taken by folk who are illiterate, innnumerate and (in Mr Dutton’s eyes) barely human.
If they weren’t in here stealing Australian’s jobs, says Dutton, they’d be out their languishing on welfare – costing Australian taxpayers money. (You wouldn’t know an election is going on, would you?) Yet the programe to keep them out is already costing Australian taxpayers several billions. (Not to mention any reputation for humanity.) Taken together, refugee detention centres cost more then putting 670,600 people on the dole. Or to put it another way, every single asylum seeker currently detained on Manus or Nauru already costs Australian taxpayers around $400,000 for each person every year.
By contrast, allowing asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are processed costs just $12,000 each person per year, one twentieth of the cost of the offshore camps, and even less if they are allowed the right to work.
And work is what they do really want, which is how refugees more than pay their way. Indeed,
the latest report from [Peter Dutton’s] own department, compliled just a couple of years ago, shows that overwhelmingly refugees, asylum-seekers, those who’ve come in under the humanitarian programme to Australia overwhelmingly contribute. They are not a burden on [taxpayers]…
These reports by his department that have been prepared over twenty or thirty years have shown that they are the opposite of a burden or a cost to the Austrailan economy and society. They contribute on every level possible. They are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be here,and they make something of themselves.
And just as a sidebar: five of the eight billionaires on the BRW Rich List have come from impoverished migrant backgrounds.
So not just uneconomic, but inhumane and flat-out stupid.
No wonder the ruling Liberal Party see this treatment as an Australian election winner.
* But, but, if taxpayers guardians weren’t out there on the high seas stopping the boats, says Julie Bishop, there would be “millions” of “boat people” flooding in.
Not true: “The highest ever number of asylum seekers to arrive by boat in one year, 2013, was 21,000. That was just 9% of Australia’s overall annual immigration intake that year. In the same year the USA took 88,400 claims, France took 60,100, Germany 109,600 and Italy 27,800. The Liberal government has now slashed the annual intake to 16,500.”