Australian government spent $4 billion last year repelling or detaining refugees


Australian government spent $4 billion last year repelling or detaining refugees

Max Newman

12 January 2018

In a world where millions of people are fleeing wars and starvation, the Australian government spent more money last year on its anti-refugee “border protection” apparatus than the entire budget of the UN refugee agency.

In 2016-17, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s operations to block refugee boats and imprison asylum seekers cost over $4 billion, according to Treasury figures provided to a Senate estimates committee late last year.

That just exceeded the global budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which estimates that 65.6 million people are currently forcibly displaced around the planet, plus 10 million more who have been rendered stateless, that is, denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

Despite successive Australian governments claiming to have “stopped the boats” of desperate people seeking refuge in the country, the resources being poured into repelling or detaining asylum seekers are still at the massive levels they rose to in 2013–14. That was the year after the last Labor government reopened the country’s “offshore” detention camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, and the year in which the current Liberal-National Coalition government stepped up military operations to block refugee boats.

A brief written answer given to the Senate committee revealed that in 2016-17 the Department of Immigration and Border Protection spent $4.061 billion on what the government terms Outcome 1, which is entitled “protect Australia’s sovereignty, security and safety by managing its border, including through…

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