Project/Icons / advocateProject/Icons / appealsProject/Icons / blog postProject/Icons / documentsProject/Icons / educateProject/Icons / healthProject/Icons / media releaseIcons/moneyIcons/moneyx2Project/Icons / petitionIcons/Ionic/Social/social-pinterestProject/Icons / protectProject/Icons / quoteProject/Icons / supportProject/Icons / volunteerProject/Icons / water

Failure to resettle remaining offshore detainees to cost Australia $1.2 billion

New figures have revealed that the Australian Government’s failure to finalise resettlement for 535 offshore detainees currently in PNG and Nauru could cost taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 3 years
03 December 2019

New figures have revealed that the Australian Government’s failure to finalise resettlement for 535 offshore detainees currently in PNG and Nauru  could cost taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 3 years.

The independent economic modelling, commissioned by Save the Children Australia, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) and GetUp, calculates the cost of offshore processing to be in excess of $573,000 per offshore person, per year.

Updating the report released by Save the Children and UNICEF Australia in 2016, todays report outlines the economic cost of not resettling the remaining 535 people who remain offshore. 

Director of Policy and International Programs for Save the Children, Mat Tinkler said the high cost of offshore processing shouldn’t be forgotten. 

“We’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of offshore processing on children, but this report shows that offshore processing continues to come at a huge financial cost to Australian taxpayers.

“Better and more affordable alternatives to indefinite and offshore mandatory detention exist, and there is an opportunity for the Government to change course and embrace greater regional cooperation which continues to disincentivise unsafe travel by boat but also minimises harm to asylum seekers and refugees.”

ASRC Advocacy Director, Jana Favero said: 

“More than 6 years of offshore processing has cost Australians billions of dollars, taken 12 lives, and harmed the physical and mental health of 1000s of refugees and people seeking asylum

“The Morrison government must negotiate to find a permanent solution to urgently resettle people held indefinitely for none other than its own political agenda.” 

Shen Narayanasamy, founder of corporate responsibility organisation No Business in Abuse and Human Rights Director at GetUp said:

"The responsibility for this $1.2 billion cost sits squarely with this government's abject failure to resolve the offshore situation. 

"Keeping people detained offshore indefinitely isn't just morally irresponsible, it makes no economic sense." 


In total 3,127 people seeking asylum have been detained on the islands of Manus and the Republic of Nauru since offshore processing began in 2013. 

Despite some attempts at resettlement, six years later, 535 people are still trapped offshore, the vast majority (83%) assessed as refugees with a further 39 yet to be processed. 

The updated analysis outlines that on the available public information, without the removal of the final 535 people to safety and resettlement, offshore processing will cost Australian taxpayers $1.2 billion over three years (2020-2023). 

For each offshore person, the cost is more than $573,000 per year, compared to $10,221 per person, per year for those living in the community on bridging visas.

In At What Cost, Save the Children and UNICEF Australia argued that the human, strategic and economic cost of Australia’s offshore processing regime was untenable without significant variation.

The analysis found that the financial costs of at least $9.6 billion were incurred by Australian taxpayers between 2013 and 2016 in maintaining offshore processing, onshore mandatory detention and boat turn-backs. 

The Full At What Cost report released today is available here

Media contacts:

Kimberley Gardiner, Save the Children +61 437435 777
Chandi Bates, GetUp! +61 455 434 403
Marcella Brassett, ASRC +61 411 026 142

Stay up to date on how Save the Children is creating a world where every child has a safe and happy childhood