The Issue

Detention – the numbers are big but the problem is small.

There were 9,621 people in detention in Australia as of 30th April 2014. Of these, 6708 were living in detention centres and 2913 were living in community detention. Of those living in detention centres, 37% were living in offshore detention on Manus and Nauru Islands. The coalition has announced plans to increase the number of offshore detention centres. Senate estimates have projected that Nauru will cost $2 billion dollars over 4 years. Offshore processing is five times more expensive than onshore processing.

The policy of mandatory detention costs $2.5 billion dollars. Between 1948 and 1992, Australia resettled 452,000 (an average of 10,272 per year) refugees in the community without a policy of mandatory detention.

The problem is small

In the last 5 years, 92% of boat arrivals have been found to be genuine refugees.

According to the latest data from 2012, boat arrivals counted for only 4.4% of total permanent migration in Australia.

We have never had a national security threat from refugees or asylum seekers either by boat or by plane.

In 2012, a year of record numbers of worldwide refugees in 18 years, Australia received only 2.2% of total asylum seeker claims in the world.

For more stats and info about worldwide asylum seeker policy, see Refugee Council: 

What should change?

Here are just few policy changes that could make a huge difference to the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia:

  1. Accept and process all asylum seeker claims – don’t turn back the boats
  2. Process asylum seekers in the community, not in detention
  3. Conduct initial security checks efficiently and process claims quickly - no punitive detention
  4. Offer permanent protection visas to genuine refugees - do not leave people in limbo 
  5. Provide the right to work and study for asylum seekers 
  6. Increase the number of places available for refugees in our Annual Immigration Program from 10% to 15%

For more policy research and advice, see ASRC: