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

Time For Some True-Blue Compassion

I think a lot of Australians have the misconception that the refugee problem is quite a long way away from them. But they’re not; they’re a couple of suburbs over, next to townhouses and schools and sports ovals. We imagine places that we can mentally chuck into the ‘too hard, too far away’ box, places that are most visible in the media, like Cambodia, Manus and Christmas Island. But many of the refugees Australia receives asylum pleas from are housed on the mainland. These are refugees coming from across the world, from places in which bombs, torture and targeting of families with young children is commonplace. These are refugees who are seeking our help via the path of desperation, some who have had to rely on men who drive shoddy vans to dark shores in the middle of the night and put them on boats that may break up mid-voyage. Instead they end up in prison. Australian prisons (or ‘detention centres’ as they are otherwise called). My mind boggles at the possibility that anyone would see this path as a choice.

Would anyone settle on a choice where their children end up behind barbed wire, unable to stay out in the community long enough to play with friends and feel carefree and happy? Would they see the easy way out as a life separated from their children, unable to protect their fragile minds from the idea that citizens only kilometres outside that fence, living lives free of persecution and everyday violence, would see them as illegitimate people who do not deserve to call Australia home? It is a terrible reality, and the hardest thing is, it is a choice. But not their choice; our government’s choice.

Seeing the title ‘Villawood Immigration Detention Centre’ for the first time, emblazoned with the Australian government insignia across the walls of the compound, is a sad moment. After all, this is my government, and no matter which side leads, the ‘leftie’ Labor or the ‘Libs’, we still have refugees stuck in barbed-wire compounds. I’m a 22 year old university student, and you’d think, at this time in my life, I’d be full of foolhardy optimism and political zeal, and yet my two attempts at voting have stamped that right out of me. I saw Labor using the ‘people smugglers are killing people on boats’ argument to lock refugees up, and now I see the ‘new’ Coalition government using the same tired rhetoric devoid of any true-blue compassion.

This is why I Am A Boat Person matters, especially to me. Although we are small, and mostly made up of university students plus a great big audience scattered across Australia, we can do something. That something is reclaiming the ‘refugee issue’ as a human rights issue and not a political issue. This is a choice. We can make the choice to recognise the ‘detainees’ inside Villawood IDC as people; people slowly being ground down mentally by indefinite imprisonment in the middle of suburban NSW. Not just children either, it’s men and women with many years ahead of them still to live and so much potential. It isn’t just the conditions inside the camps that horrify me. What horrifies me is that there ARE barbed-wire fences. That people I know, people who smile and laugh, who live in the 21st century with me and deserve to have a smartphone and a laptop and a home among the gumtrees, are locked up for seeking help from a country that sees itself as compassionate. It’s about time we ALL started justifying that claim. 


by Gemma Jamison / Communications Manager