Australia could take in 20,000 extra refugees and save money by ending offshore detention

Posted on September 8, 2015 · Posted in Blog

Australia could take in 20,000 extra refugees and save money by ending offshore detention.

We estimate the annual cost of onshore and offshore detention of around 3,300 people at roughly $989 million, based on figures revealed as part of last year’s National Commission of Audit.

A switch to in community processing for every person currently in offshore detention, along with an additional 20,000 Syrian refugees, as proposed by Amnesty (among others) would only cost $932 million.

In-fact, if you wanted to reduce this cost even further, I’m sure many of Australia’s 7.6 million households would volunteer to host Syrian families for much less than the $40,0000 per year the Commission of Audit estimated in community processing cost. An Airbnb for refugees has even been created facilitate exactly this in Germany.

The decision to resettle more refugees from Syria should be a moral decision, not an economic one.

Having said that, simple analysis indicates that due to the extremely high cost of offshore and onshore detention policies (in financial let alone human terms), shifting to in community processing would actually be cheaper. It would also spread the benefits of increased economic activity around Australia, something I’ve talked about before.

Calculations below:

Detention type Number of people Annual cost Total cost
Offshore 1579 430,000  $              678,970,000
Onshore 1731 179,000  $              309,849,000
Total  $              988,819,000
Additional Syrian intake 20,000 40,000  $              800,000,000
Moving all existing detainees to community processing 3310 40,000  $              132,400,000
Total 23,310 40,000  $              932,400,000