In their report ‘ At What Cost”, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the Save the Children Fund have arrived at a figure of $9.2 billion as the cost to run our immigration detention centres over the past three years. This is a conservative figure put together from numbers scattered through various official government records and they believe that the cost could well be more than what they were able to find.
In the Australian Government Audit Office report, the cost per off-shore detainee was $573,000 per year, that is $1570 a day. Compare this cost to that of an Australian pensioner who receives $20,700 a year.
The Audit Office also contends that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has breached the government’s guidelines by not opening the provision of services to Manus Island and Nauru to public tender. The whole process of the appointment of a service provider would not stand scrutiny. By selecting one service provider to run the both centres, they have removed competition that may have lessened the cost. There are numerous other management practices in the department that the auditor questioned.
Of course, this is the monetary cost of a very cruel policy. The enormous toll on the health and mental wellbeing of the victims of this policy is, at this stage, most likely inestimable. The trauma suffered by men, women and children through years in detention will, most likely, be a chronic illness for most of their lives, and an on-going cost the taxpayers for many years.
The present government policy is a financial black hole, and if the impact of the abuse of human rights is added to it, totally unsustainable.