The Economic Side to the Asylum Debate

There isn't much to be happy about for those contemplating an asylum claim in Australia. The cost alone should be enough to deter the detention of those seeking asylum in Australia, and when considering the cost to the Australian economy of a brutal deterrence policy like the one Australia is currently using today, the benefits just don't stack up.

Since the establishment of off-shore processing centres Manus Island and Nauru, over $1 billion dollars has been spent on the costs of processing asylum seekers off shore. The detaining of one person in an off-shore detention centre costs $400,000 per year according to The National Commission of Audit, whilst the cost of on-shore detention costs has been found to be $239,000 a year.

The National Commission of Audit has found that the settling of an asylum seeker in a community on a bridging visa will cost a mere $40,000 in comparison. The Commission of Audits 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% each year. Costs have increased from $118.4 million in 2009 and 2010 to $3.3 billion in 2013 and 2014.

Not only do the current forms of processing in Australia create unnecessary costs, but they also neglect to acknowledge the positive economic impacts asylum seekers can and have made in Australia. 

The positive impact of refugees can be measured by their place in revitalisation and nation-building projects which are littered throughout Australia's short but eventful history. Population growth in Australia has long been connected with economic prosperity, and refugee immigration has been one of the primary contributors to this prosperity, whether they be from WW1, WW2, the Vietnam War, or any of the many other reasons people are displaced around the world. Refugee immigration has supplied much-needed people-power and stimulated economic growth via government investment in services and infrastructure, contributing to the revitalisation of Australian country towns.

The Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme is the greatest example of Australia’s immigrant history and one of Australia's greatest engineering achievements. Without the post war refugees that flocked to Australia and found jobs within the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the project would not have been possible. Currently the scheme generates $3 billion to Australia’s economy and supplies 32% of Australia's renewable energy. Over 100,000 refugees participated in the project, slowly but surely becoming part of the great multicultural country we are now proud to be today.

Currently under bridging visas asylum seekers residing in Australia are not allowed to work. In its recent appearance before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Australian Human Rights Commission expressed their deep concern that the limited bridging visa without the right to work impedes the opportunity for asylum seekers to rebuild their lives and to make a contribution to Australian society.

Today these asylum seekers now live as examples of the positive impacts asylum seekers can make in Australia. 


See sources below for information sources

The Commission of Audit

 Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme



by Angus Mulholland / Writer