Cost of Australia holding each refugee on Nauru balloons to $4.3m a year

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The outgo to Australian taxpayers to clasp a azygous exile connected Nauru has escalated tenfold to much than $350,000 each period – oregon $4.3m a twelvemonth – arsenic the authorities refuses to uncover wherever astir $400m spent connected offshore processing connected the land has gone.

Australia presently pays astir $40m a period to tally its offshore processing authorities connected Nauru, an magnitude astir identical to 2016 erstwhile determination were astir 10 times arsenic galore radical held connected the island.

No refugees and asylum seekers person been sent to Nauru since 2014, and with numbers of refugees held determination dwindling – done resettlement to the US, transportation to Australia for acute aesculapian care, abandonment of a extortion claim, oregon decease – the outgo to Australia to clasp each idiosyncratic has accrued dramatically.

In May 2016, Australia held 1,193 radical connected Nauru astatine a outgo of $45,347 a period per idiosyncratic – astir $1,460 a time oregon $534,000 a year.

By August 2021, the fig of asylum seekers and refugees held connected the land had fallen astir tenfold, but the costs of moving the offshore programme remained broadly static. In that month, determination were 107 refugees and asylum seekers connected Nauru astatine a outgo to taxpayers of $464,486 a period for each person, oregon much than $15,000 a day.

The mean monthly outgo successful 2021 is $358,646 for each exile and asylum seeker held connected the island, adjacent to $4.3m per idiosyncratic each year, a Guardian Australia investigation of authorities figures provided to the Senate shows.

Monthly outgo of moving Australia's offshore processing operations connected Nauru, per person

The bulk – 78 of those radical – are refugees whose claims for extortion person been formally recognised and Australia is legally obliged to support them. Others are inactive awaiting a last exile presumption determination, oregon person had their assertion rejected.

There are nary women, children oregon household groups remaining among those held by Australia connected Nauru. There are lone azygous men, meaning services astir maternal health, babe healthcare and puerility acquisition are nary longer being provided.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told the Guardian that “regional processing successful Nauru remains a cardinal pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders”.

“Costs associated with determination processing person saved lives astatine sea, by providing ongoing deterrence against amerciable maritime radical smuggling.”

But Labor argues Australia’s spending connected Nauru is opaque.

The authorities has declined to archer the Senate to whom it has paid astir $400m to assistance tally the authorities connected Nauru.

Responses to Senate questions connected announcement amusement that from November 2017 to January 2021, the Australian authorities spent much than $1.67bn connected “garrison and welfare” for those held connected the island.

The immense bulk of that – astir $1.3bn – was paid to its 3 “primary entities”: operation and facilities absorption steadfast Canstruct International; healthcare supplier International Health and Medical Services (IHMS); and the authorities of Nauru.

Nauru facility
Australia signed a woody with Nauru successful September this twelvemonth to support a detention centre, creating an enduring signifier of offshore processing. Photograph: AP

Canstruct was paid a small implicit $1bn to supply garrison and payment services; IHMS received $138.3m to supply healthcare; and the Nauru authorities was paid $73.3m.

The full outgo to the 3 “primary entities” identified by the section was $1,272,681,862.

But Australia’s full payments for garrison and welfare services connected Nauru were $1,671,500,000, according to authorities figures, with an further $398,818,138 paid to different individuals, organisations, oregon governments.

Under questioning from Labor successful the Senate, the section said it would not supply details connected to whom that further wealth was paid.

Payment information subsequently recorded successful the Department’s Financial Management Information System is not disaggregated … and the manual involution required to place this level of item constitutes an unreasonable diversion of resources.”

Known v chartless payments for Nauru offshore processing

Senator Kristina Keneally, the shadiness curate for location affairs, said Scott Morrison’s authorities had superior questions to reply implicit the escalating costs of offshore processing connected Nauru.

“This is yet different illustration of Mr Morrison utilizing taxpayers wealth arsenic if it was Liberal Party money.”

Keneally said the government’s effect to the Senate that payments could not beryllium elaborate publically was inadequate, arguing the Australian radical “absolutely person a close to cognize however it has been spent”.

“We are not talking astir a missing tin of petty cash. This is $400m. Where did it go? Has it gone into the pockets of Liberal mates? Has it been lost?

“The Morrison authorities either doesn’t cognize what has happened to this $400m oregon it doesn’t privation Australians to know.”

Senator Kristina Keneally says Australians person  a close    to cognize  wherever  nationalist   wealth  goes.
Senator Kristina Keneally says Australians person a close to cognize wherever nationalist wealth goes. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Department of Home Affairs told the Guardian “the questions connected announcement question antithetic types of information, and arsenic specified are not straight comparable”.

“The figures provided successful effect to assorted questions bespeak payments made to suppliers connected a currency ground with full expenditure accounted for connected an accrual basis. As a result, the figures volition not neatly full oregon realise month-to-month consistency.”

The Guardian understands the “total” costs fig for Nauru captures each expenses related to determination processing there, including ancillary costs specified arsenic authorities administration, transport, roadworthy maintenance, utilities, unit accommodation, onshore leases, staffing costs and ineligible services.

Canstruct declaration scrutinised

Canstruct’s ample and increasing declaration – present worthy astir $1.6bn – to tally the Nauru installation has attracted peculiar scrutiny.

The Brisbane company, which is a Liberal enactment donor, helped physique the Nauru detention centre, and started moving the offshore authorities connected the land successful precocious 2017.

The archetypal declaration awarded to Canstruct for services connected Nauru was worthy conscionable $8m successful October 2017. But this was amended astir immediately, accrued by 4,500% to $385m conscionable a period aft being signed.

Since then, seven further amendments person escalated the outgo to taxpayers to $1,598,230,689 a full summation of much than 19,300%, government tender documents show.

The eighth and latest amendment to the declaration was published this month, with different $179m to proceed operating connected the land until the extremity of 2021.

The declaration was awarded nether constricted tender, with “no submissions oregon worth for wealth submissions received”, authorities tender documents show.

Canstruct, oregon individuals oregon entities associated with it, has made astatine slightest 11 donations to the Coalition since 2017, according to authorities electoral disclosures. The institution has antecedently strenuously denied immoderate nexus betwixt governmental donations and the awarding of immoderate contracts.

Asked astir Canstruct’s Nauru operations, a spokesperson for the institution said: “Unfortunately we are incapable to remark connected these matters. Please nonstop immoderate questions to the national government.”

In September, the Australian authorities signed an statement with the authorities of Nauru for an “enduring” offshore processing regime connected the island.

Australia’s offshore processing statement with Papua New Guinea volition extremity connected 31 December this year. In 2017, Australia’s detention centre connected PNG’s Manus Island was ruled unconstitutional and the detention of radical determination illegal. Australia was required to wage much than $70m successful compensation.