The 2016-17 Federal Budget maintains funding for offshore detention and processing of asylum seekers, as well as measures designed to address people-smuggling. There are some changes to expenditure relating to onshore detention and processing.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will allocate $9.1m over the next two years toward efforts to address people-smuggling within the South-East Asian region, including the stationing of Australian Border Force officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. This funding is similar to that allocated in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 federal budgets.
Measures to address maritime people-smuggling and irregular migration in the region will also be funded under other portfolios. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade allocates $9.2m over four years for the Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, taskforces and high-level meetings related to the Bali Process. The Department of Defence will continue to fund Operation Resolute, a long-running initiative that contributes to the protection of Australia’s border and maritime interests, and includes the maritime interception of asylum seekers under Operation Sovereign Borders.
In Indonesia, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will allocate $55.4m this financial year to assist Indonesia to “manage their asylum seeker populations”, under an ongoing Regional Cooperation Arrangement. The Department will also allocate $2.2m this financial year to the International Organization for Migration’s work with asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Indonesia.
Offshore, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has allocated an additional $61.5m to “support the operation of regional processing centres and settlement outcomes”. Total funding for the detention and processing of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru remains at similar levels to previous years, estimated at around $880.5m for 2016-17. The foreign aid budget for Papua New Guinea is $558.3m for 2016-17, while Nauru receives $25.5m and Cambodia $90m.
Onshore, the budget provides for the closure of three facilities: Perth Immigration Residential Housing Centre; the Blaxland centre at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre. According to the budget papers, this means that 17 detention facilities have now been closed under the Coalition government since 2013; the Refugee Council of Australia has stated that this is in line with a 70 per cent reduction in the total detention population. The government will also allocate capital funding of $80.1m over the next three years to build accommodation adjacent to the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation for families of those detained at that facility, and to upgrade security at Melbourne, Yongah Hill and Villawood.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will allocate additional funds of $39.8m to support those asylum seekers who arrived in Australia with a valid visa, during the processing of their protection claims, while an additional $12.1m will be provided over the next two years to support unaccompanied minors who hold humanitarian visas. The Department of Social Services will also provide $10.9m over the next three years towards the social and economic resettlement outcomes of newly arrived humanitarian entrants.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Portfolio Budget Statement 2016-17
Australian government, Budget Paper No. 2: Budget Measures 2016-17
Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Budget 2015-2016
Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Refugee Policy under the 2014-2015 Budget