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’.

Some costs can be extraordinary. For example, the cost of detaining the Sri Lankan family from Bileola in Queensland is now over $11 million. The family was detained in March 2018 and in August 2019 was transferred to Christmas Island. Further, a response to a Senate question on notice revealed that a total of 17 staff have been engaged at Christmas Island for this family, this includes 11 “Facilities and Detainee Service Provider staff” which are typically employed by Serco and 5 detention health providers.

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.

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