The blow out of more than $1 billion dollars in the Immigration Department’s budget was avoidable had the government finally put time limits on detention and increased community release places, the Australian Greens said today.

“The annual average cost of a community release programme is $10,400 per person, compared to more than $137,000 if an asylum seeker is kept indefinitely in a detention centre,” Greens’ immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

“Detention centre operating costs are of course higher for facilities in remote areas such as at Curtin or Scherger.
“Letting more asylum seekers live in the community once health and security checks show it is safe to do so is a better use of taxpayers’ money and can keep the department’s costs down.

“Time limits on detention, as recommended by the recent Joint Select Committee on Immigration Detention, keep costs down and reduce tensions among asylum seekers and related overcrowding problems.

“They also help tackle the mental health bill because it signals to fragile people that they will not be languishing in detention indefinitely, as happens now.

“It’s disappointing that the government refuses to acknowledge that letting asylum seekers live in the community once authorities deem them safe is a 90 percent cheaper and 100 percent fairer deal for vulnerable men, women and children than warehousing them indefinitely.”