Refugee Council of Australia
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Statistics on people in detention in Australia

Costs of detention

Holding people in detention is extremely expensive, as answers to questions on notice to Parliament show.

This graph shows the average cost of holding people in immigration detention facilities, compared to community detention or allowing them to live in the community lawfully on a ‘bridging visa’. In 2021-2022, the average annual cost for holding one person in held detention was $421,673.

Some costs can be extraordinary. For example, the Australian government spent $7 million detaining the Sri Lankan family from Bileola in Queensland on Christmas Island. This cost does not include the costs of detaining the family in Australia between March 2018, before they were transferred to Christmas Island in August 2019. The family was released from Australia in June 2021.

The costs of holding people in hotel-style accommodation (in 'Alternative Places of Detention') is also extraordinary. According to Senate estimates, the indicative cost of leasing a single room per day at the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel between 1 January and 31 March 2021 was $7,000.

For the reopening of Christmas Island, over $85 million had already been spent by the government by December 2020, even though the Immigration Detention Centre was only formally re-opened in August 2020. The budget for six months for the re-opening of the Immigration Detention Centre was $55 million, to hold roughly 250 people.

The human costs

The human costs of prolonged detention are profound. This graph shows the number of self-harm incidents in detention over the past five years.

This graph shows the number of deaths in immigration detention.

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