Sunday, 26 August 2007

End to Pacific Solution

This is an issue we addressed in our very first Progression newsletter: that the so-called "Pacific Solution" for asylum seekers is unjust, inhumane and also, stupidly costly. One very economically-minded and Liberal-voting friend told me, after reading the article, that he was now converted to ending the Pacific Solution based purely on cost alone. Now it seems Oxfam is bringing the issue to our attention once more. This is an SMH article:

The so-called Pacific solution for asylum seekers is a taxpayer rip-off that fuels mental illness among refugees and should be scrapped, a new report claims.
The findings are from an analysis by aid organisation Oxfam Australia and refugee advocacy group A Just Australia released on the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the Tampa and its cargo of asylum seekers rescued from the Indian Ocean.
The report analyses the financial, legal, human and regional cost of the so-called Pacific solution which sent asylum seekers to offshore detention centres.
The solution was developed by the government in 2001 in a crackdown on unauthorised immigration and to try to stem the numbers of asylum seekers accessing Australian courts in an increasingly costly litigation process.
But the report said taxpayers have spent more than $1 billion since 2001 to process fewer than 1,700 asylum seekers in Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island - a cost of more than $500,000 per person.
"By comparison, the latest estimates from (the immigration department) suggest that to process 1,700 asylum seekers for 90 days each at Villawood detention centre in Sydney would have cost around $35 million - around 3.5 per cent of the cost of processing them offshore," the report said.
Most detainees have spent two years on Nauru, it said, with some being held for up to six years and many developing psychological illnesses in detention.
"Most, if not all, of these asylum seekers have paid a substantial personal toll through poor mental and physical health and wellbeing," the report said.
"There have also been detrimental impacts on Australia's democratic and legal system, Australia's regional relationships and the international system of protection of refugees and asylum seekers."
Oxfam and A Just Australia recommended offshore processing be abolished.
"We believe it is critical that the Australian government end the Pacific solution and the offshore detention and processing of asylum-seekers on Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island," the document said.
"Instead, asylum-seekers reaching excised areas of Australia by boat should be processed in mainland Australia in the same way as other asylum-seekers."
The report demanded an audit into the full financial costs of running offshore detention centres, and the scrapping of arrangements that allow refugees to be resettled in the US and other third countries.
The report also called for an inquiry into whether offshore processing and the excision of islands from Australia's migration zone had decreased the number of refugee boat arrivals, as claimed by the government.
The federal government is expected to open a new detention centre on Christmas Island later this year, built at a cost of about $400 million.

Are people mad? Even if all you care about is dollars and cents, this just doesn't add up.

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