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Chilout Newsletter September 2016

We store the Chilout Newsletters in the tab at the top of the blog, so you can go back and read the stories from the past.

ChilOut | Children out of Immigration Detention

ChilOut Newsletter – September Edition

Dear Friend,

Children Don't Belong in Detetion
The August statistics for detention have just been released again showing no drop in the 49 children in the detention centre on Nauru. This is despite the fact that some asylum seekers have been there for over 3 years. Over 24% have been held for 730 days or more.

According to the Hon. Minister Charmaine Scotty, Head of Delegation of Nauru at the United Nations a total of 173 refugee and asylum seeker children are on Nauru (including children in the community). We know from countless reports and inquiries that none – whether inside or outside detention – are safe on Nauru.

Also we cannot forget about the men on Manus Island. This includes several who have been held so long they are now adults.

We call on the government to #CloseTheCamps and #BringThemHere.

Australia on the International Platform

This month political leaders and civil society representatives signed the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants at the UN Summit on Migrants and Refugees. All 193 member states (including Australia) committed to working towards ending child detention. Let’s make sure they stick to their word! Share, like, and sign our petition to show your support.
It was, however, disappointing to see Malcolm Turnbull put forward Australia’s border protection policies as a model for other countries to follow. We hope that other governments realise that Australia’s hard-line border policies come at a tremendous cost to human life. The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) have condemned this statement and noted that our government tends to ignore the 'elephant in the room in the form of our offshore detention system'.

This plea to the UN from a refugee held on Nauru shows why we must end long term detention.

Children held on Nauru are Australia's responsibility

2015 UNICEF review of child protection in Nauru in 2015 noted that more had to be done to protect refugee and asylum seeker children. Last week before the United Nations a delegate from Nauru stated that the newly created Child Protection Unit was only for 'national purposes and did not concern refugee and asylum seeker children'. The delegate stated, 'The latter were looked after by the Australian government.' Countless inquiries and reports have found clearly children are not being protected by the Australian government.

ChilOut's Youth Ambassador Report

YA Group Photo
This month our Youth Ambassadors have spoken at a school, on a panel, held a stall at the Youth Humanitarian Festival and held workshops at the Law Society's Young Lawyers event. Check out their Facebook page. To read more about our Ambassadors or to book an Ambassador to speak, visit our website.

Latest news

Australian Human Rights Commission released its “Pathways To Protection” report – A comprehensive report exploring rights-based alternatives to third country processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. 
In response to #PathwaysToProtection and in support of Professor Gillian Triggs, ChilOut called on Malcolm Turnbull to explore the alternatives to detention. Read our press release here.
Connect Settlement Services (CSS) is the latest in a long line of contractors to pull out of Nauru. (Ferrovial leaves in October 2017, Wilson has also announced this month that it will not tender again.) CSS has 'consistently raised concerns about insufficient mental healthcare and child protection services on the island'. Read more here.
The UNICEF True Cost of Australia's Refugee Policies report has revealed that holding someone in detention costs taxpayers $400,000 a year. Ending ‘open detention’ on Manus Island and Nauru could save Australia $2 billion by 2020.

A National Audit Office Report report finds ‘serious and persistent deficiencies’ in the Immigration Department’s management of contracts.

A former WorkSafe Victoria prosecuting solicitor in this article shows there may be apparent criminal offences being committed against Australian workplace law.  

Get Involved!
Join a Welcome to Australia Walk near you! No matter where we're from, how we got here or why we've made Australia home – we now share our future – so let's #walktogether.

'Cast from the Storm' is a must-see powerful and uplifting film following students with refugee backgrounds who share their journeys through the inspirational Treehouse Theatre program.

Public Education Foundation’s Friends of Zainab Scholarships support students with refugee backgrounds through their High School Certificate and their first two years of university. 
Download ChilOut's Printable Posters for demonstrations or other events. Take a photo with the posters, share on social media and show your support! 
And don’t forget ChilOut has a new website! Check it out here.

Thank you everyone for your ongoing support!


This month we had a very special donation from 12-year-old Rosie. She spent her weekend making cards and bookmarks to raise money for ChilOut. We are blown away by her generosity and her compassion!
Please donate to ChilOut here. All donations over $2 are tax deductible and any contribution small or large helps!




Article in Guardian on future of men on Manus Island 29 September 2016

Asylum seekers are being made to attend ‘status resolution interviews’ with an Australian immigration department staff member where they are enticed to abandon their protection claims with inducements of money and immediate passage home, staff say. Photograph: 

Thursday 29 September 2016 04.30 AEST
You have no future here,” the 833 men detained at the Manus Island detention centre were bluntly told in a formal government statement this week. But, for the overwhelming majority of those still in detention after three years, they have no future anywhere else either. They have nowhere else they can go.
Australia is coercing refugees on Manus Island to return to their home countries, even to places where it is known they face arrest, persecution and possible torture, staff on the island have told Guardian Australia.
The detention centre on Manus was found to be “illegal and unconstitutional” by the Papua New Guinea supreme court in April and, while it remains operational more than four months later, the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments are escalating efforts to close it.
Of the 551 men held there who have had their protection claims assessed, 541 – or 98% – have been recognised as refugees. That is, they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their homeland, they cannot be returned there, and they are legally owed protection.

'No future for you here': Australia and PNG push to clear out Manus detainees
Read more

Only 10 have been found not to be refugees.
But those with valid refugee claims are still being pressed to return home: offered upwards of $10,000 to abandon their right to protection and warned if they choose to stay they face an uncertain future.
An island source familiar with offshore processing procedures spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution under the Border Force Act: “it is just so morally wrong – when you are found to be a refugee you are owed protection”.
“Our government is knowingly and deliberately trying to coerce people back to
situations where they can be killed or persecuted or tortured. This is now
happening before some have been fully assessed under all the refugee
determination procedures. To me that’s so wrong, it’s morally wrong and
questionable under the law. It flagrantly disregards non-refoulement obligations under international human rights law.”
“The law is flexible in our government’s hands. Offshore processing allows for an
‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality whereby if ‘no one’s really seeing
what we’re doing then we are not accountable’.”
On Wednesday PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Services Authority (Icsa) announced the camp would be restructured, with “positive” refugee determined men held separately from those with “negative” assessments.
All in the camp are being actively encouraged to abandon their protection claims even if they have demonstrated they face imprisonment, persecution and torture if they return home.
“Assistance is available for people who want to voluntarily depart PNG. Recently, the amount of integration assistance has increased,” the men were told this week in a statement from Icsa, which also warned police would be called in to force “the movement of those who refuse to cooperate”.

Asylum seekers are being made to attend “status resolution interviews” with an Australian immigration department staff member where they are enticed to abandon their protection claims with inducements of money and immediate passage home – even before their protection claims have been finalised, according to detainees and staff on the island.

“Before the [refugee status determination] process is finished, they are already forcing these into these meetings with the sole intention of pushing them home, a place where they are in serious danger,” said an island source.
Asylum seekers who refuse to attend are stripped of their “points”, the ersatz currency used to obtain food, cigarettes and phone credit inside the detention centre.
At those meetings asylum seekers are offered upwards of $10,000 – the department has rejected reports of figures up to $20,000 – to go home immediately.
“This is a new step designed to push men home,” the source on the island said. “After three years we are still squeezing them, pressuring them to go back, it’s simply coercion.
“The reality it is the Australian government continues to use highly vulnerable
people to solve problems the government itself has created. There are no resettlement options either in PNG or a third country. It has been found to be illegal under the PNG constitution to detain asylum seekers. Forcing people home might reduce the size of the problem but it will not make it go away.”
Charlotte Chompff, who formerly worked on Manus Island, told Guardian Australia the men held on the island faced constant coercion to return home “voluntarily”.

Resettling refugees in Papua New Guinea: a tragic theatre of the absurd

Rohingyans, Somalis and Sudanese were being pressed to go home, induced with money and told they should abandon their claim to protection, even though their homelands were active warzones, or it was accepted by the Australian government that because of their ethnicity or religion they faced systemic persecution, she said.
“It is clear refoulement to send someone back home, when they have been found to be a refugee; especially to places where there is an active war occurring. The fact that they are still on Manus after all this time is demonstration of just how impossible it is for them to go home.”
Rohingyans – an ethnic and religious minority not recognised as citizens by their home country, Myanmar – “literally cannot go back”.
“It is impossible. So they are trapped, waiting for nothing.”
Chompff said detention on Manus was designed to be cruel.
“Australia’s whole underlying strategy … is to make conditions in offshore detention so difficult that people will give up. It is a deliberate tactic to wear people down, to break them down, so they just give up and go home.”
Chompff said men who had been found to be refugees, where it was known they faced systemic and violent persecution in their homelands, were still being encouraged, and offered inducements, to return home.
A confidential source on Manus told Guardian Australia: “Some guys put their hand up [to be returned]. Their attitude is ‘I don’t care if I get locked up when I go back, at least I’ll know it is for 10 years, I’ll get sentenced for a specific period of time and then it will be over’. On Manus they don’t know how long the punishment will last.
“Men who have been found to be refugees, have waited and waited, and then given up and gone home. They have been worn down, unable to endure endless uncertainty. They’ve been here three years, more than three years, and then they are escorted back. Information on what happens to people when they are returned is sketchy. The truth is we don’t know. They’re just gone.”
About 300 men have not yet been finally assessed (numbers in the detention centre vary with people moved to Port Moresby for medical treatment, or to the East Lorengau refugee transit centre).

The process for demonstrating a valid refugee claim is exhaustive.
Asylum seekers must first submit to an entry interview (in the case of most of the men on Manus, this was conducted by Australian officials), where they are screened in or out. They then have an interview with a claims assistance provider scheme (Caps) representative, who prepares a formal application for refugee status.
Asylum seekers are then interviewed by officers from PNG’s Icsa, where their claim is extensively tested . The process can take months, especially if asylum seekers are asked to source identity documents, usually from the government of the country they fled.
Interviews regularly run for several hours, some for longer than a day. Conditions are hot and communication is hampered by noisy fans, power failures and lost or incomplete files.
Interpreters who speak the wrong language are sometimes booked, particularly for ethnic minorities, derailing interviews.
Asylum seekers are often asked repeatedly and in detail about the specifics of their persecution, including torture, sexual violence and the deaths of family members. They are regularly left deeply distressed and unable to continue their interview. If abandoned, an interview can take months to reschedule.
“The guys were really suffering,” Chompff said. “We would be told by our clients about the torture they had endured. We had to probe for some of the details in order get an accurate account. This sometimes meant that they had to relive the trauma of the torture.”
“Sometimes a client would become distressed while describing the things they had suffered and we would not be able to continue the interview. The interviews were scheduled for three hours, but sometimes they went on much longer. Some clients needed a whole day to get out their story and what they had experienced.”
In the weeks or months following an interview, a decision on an asylum seeker’s claim is then made, ostensibly by PNG, but advised by Australian officials.

'End this political game': Manus Island refugee makes plea to Australia

“It’s a rigorous process, it’s really tough,” Chompff said. “It’s a high threshold to prove you are a refugee.”
The small number found not to be refugees are able to apply for a merits review of their cases. A significant number of claims are overturned on review.
And there is a final “deportation risk assessment” before people are forcibly deported.
“But we [Australian immigration] are getting geared up to begin the deportations soon, the ones we can do,” an island source told Guardian Australia.
Some countries, such as Iran, will not accept forcible returns of their citizens. Rohingyas are not recognised as citizens of Myanmar and so cannot enter the country.
The refugee status determination process is run by PNG’s Icsa but is actively overseen by Australian Border Force officials, who are present and in uniform on the island.
“We [Australia] are absolutely in charge of the whole process, the whole process,”
a source said. “PNG is being instructed by the ABF, by necessity as it’s all relatively new and totally different to how it operated in the past. It is being run according to the Australian government’s agenda.”
A department source said: “We are Big Brother looking over the shoulder.”
Even as Australia attempts to reduce numbers in the camp, the harsh conditions in offshore detention mean an increasing number of men need protection, as asylum seekers’ identities are leaked online by government error, revealed by the media, or their grievances with their home governments are aired on social media.
Many of the men transported on Manus arrived with weak claims to refugee status but they have been strengthened by their treatment during incarceration.
The largest national cohort on Manus is from Iran, whose government closely monitors mainstream and social media.
“Since these guys have left their country they have been on social media, including Facebook, talking about the situation on Manus,” Chompff said. “Facebook is closely monitored by countries like Iran. Some of them have had their picture in the media. This can give rise to a sur place claim.
“Many of the guys on Manus now could have a sur place claim because of what’s happened to them since being sent to Manus. Some governments perceive seeking asylum in another country [to be] an anti-government or political action.”
In 2014 the Australian immigration department accidentally leaked the details of 9,258 asylum seekers, which it conceded put them in potential danger.
Chompff said many of the men who have been held on Manus – most for more than three years – had been “so damaged mentally” they could not be safely returned to their home countries.
“They might not have had a strong protection claim before but, because of the terrible conditions, the way they have been treated and lack of adequate health provisions in their home country, there may be a claim for protection. It is refoulement to return a very sick person to a place where there is no adequate healthcare and they will only deteriorate.
“Those men who might have not met the legal definition of a refugee initially, now could have a claim for protection. They have spent three years in a situation where the Australian government has effectively tortured them.”
In response to questions from Guardian Australia, a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “The department does not agree with any assertion that ‘the indefinite nature of detention is designed to “coerce” refugees and asylum seekers to go home’. It has consistently refuted such claims.
“The department continues to work in support of the government of PNG to deliver services at the centre.

Refugee left homeless in Papua New Guinea after being resettled from Australian-run detention

“Together our priority is to secure appropriate return or settlement outcomes for all people at the Manus RPC and to close the centre as quickly as practicable.”
“Non-refugees do not have a lawful right to remain in PNG and must return to a country where they have a right of residence.
“In cases where people make a decision to return home, assistance is available to help them depart PNG, return home and re-establish their lives.”
The department said resettlement assistance was calculated individually for each person who elected to return home.
The spokesman also said: “No one is detained on Manus – the RPC has been an open centre since April 2016.”
The men on Manus Island remain held in the same compounds they have been for more than three years, behind three-metre metal fencing, patrolled by armed guards, and they are not free to leave of their own volition. They are security screened and have their communications monitored.
Their only permitted movements are on scheduled buses to Lorengau township.
“They lie,” one detainee told Guardian Australia. “Of course we are not free. Our lives are much worse now.”


Newsletter for 27 September 2016 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Roadside demo report
Next popup roadside demos
Next market stall - Sat Oct 1st Valla Beach
A few facts and figures
Upcoming Helfgott concert

Roadside Demonstration Report
Last Thursday's roadside demonstration in Coffs Harbour was a great success. We had a great turnout of fifteen supporters, which ensured  that we were a very visible presence with our banners and placards. As usual, there was lots of support from passing motorists who waved, gave us the thumbs up and sounded their horns. These roadside demos are an excellent way to help get our message across about the urgent need to bring Australia's cruel offshore detention regime to an end.
Why not consider joining us for our next demo which will be in Toormina, on Hogbin Drive, opposite the fire station and in the direction of the Sawtell Garden Centre?  Date and time: Thursday 13th October from 3.00 pm until 4.30 pmIf you can attend, please email Robin at: to let him know.

Programme for roadside demonstrations
Thursday 13th October in Toormina, opposite the fire station on Hogbin Drive.
Thursday 27th October outside the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour.
Thursday 10th November on the Pacific Highway in Nambucca Heads, adjacent to the Plaza shopping Centre.
Thursday 24th November in Bellingen on Waterfall Way adjacent to the public library.
All the demos start at 3.30 pm and end at 4.30 pm.

Our next market stall: Saturday 1st October at Valla Beach
A reminder that our next market stall will be this coming Saturday at Valla Beach. We are looking for supporters to join us between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm. If you can come along to help for an hour or so, please email Mike at:  The market stalls are always pleasant occasions: the opportunity for us to get together for a chat, interact with market goers and, most importantly, to get our message out there about the dreadful treatment of asylum seekers languishing in limbo on Nauru and Manus Island.

Refugees: a few facts and figures from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees
·        There are now 65.3 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced. Of these, 21.3 million are recognised as refugees. This figure of 21.3 million comprises 16.1 million who come under the umbrella of the UNHCR mandate, and 5.2 million Palestinian refugees who are the responsibility of another UN agency, UNRWA.
·        The UNHCR budget rose to a record $5.3 billion in 2013. The Agency currently works in 126 countries, helping to care for 16.1 million people. By contrast, the Australian government has spent $9.6 billion since 2013 creating utter misery  for a few thousand asylum seekers in order to prevent them, and deter others, from coming to Australia.
·        According to UNHCR, Australia is ranked 25th overall in its resettlement of refugees. On a per capita basis, Australia ranks 32nd, and on a GDP comparison basis, ranks 47th. These statistics have remained constant for the past decade.
·        Just three countries in the world account for 54% of the refugee total. They are Somalia (1.1 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Syria (4.9 million).
·        Approximately 86% of the world's refugees are hosted in poor, developing countries. These include Jordan (664,000), Ethiopia (736,000), Iran (979,000), Lebanon (1.1 million), Pakistan (1.6 million) and Turkey (2.5 million).

Upcoming concert
There is to be a concert, in Bellingen at the Memorial Hall, next month in support of refugees. It is to be given by David Helfgott. There is also going to be another pianist playing with David.

The concert is on Sunday 27th November at 2pm. It is $70 a ticket and you can contact Mark Hallam at Sanctuary Australia Foundation (6652 2127). 

A good turn out at the Coffs popup demo last week.

Our blog is at and includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers

check out the index of subjects on the blog

The newsletter is sent to 414 recipients


Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

The National RAR web site is at 


Newsletter for 20 September 2016 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Newsletter for 20 September 2016 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Bellingen Market report
Next popup roadside demo - Thursday 22nd Coffs
Donations to Asylum Seekers Centre
New supporters
UN Human Rights Office calls for end to offshore detention

Bellingen Market Report
We had another very successful market in Bellingen on Saturday. The weather was beautiful, the crowds turned out and lots of people visited our stall to find out more about our campaign,  sign the petition, buy our asylum seeker merchandise and donate to the Asylum Seekers Centre. As always, many of the visitors to our stall expressed their dismay about our government’s cruel and inhumane policy of indefinite offshore detention. We  know that we are better than this, and that we must therefore maintain the pressure on both the Coalition and the Labor opposition to end the disgraceful treatment of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus. It’s worth remembering too that our government has spent more than $9 billion since 2013 on keeping our asylum seekers out of sight, in the hope that they will also be out of mind.
Our next market will be at Valla Beach on Saturday 1st October. This will be the final  opportunity to collect signatures on our petition before sending them to Canberra. Please put the date in your diary and think about coming to join us for a while.
Roadside Demonstration: Thursday 22nd September in Coffs Harbour. 3.00 pm until 4.30 pm. 
Our next roadside demonstration is just two days away. We will be by the Pacific Highway, opposite the Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, by the northbound carriageway. Please, please consider joining us, even for part of the time. We have lots of placards and banners to share, but we need at least ten people to make an impact. If you can join us, please email Robin at: A strong, visual presence does help us to get our message across.
Donations to the Asylum Seekers Centre

People have kindly continued to donate  to the ASC at our markets, and we have had good sales of our T-shirts, bags and tea towels. As a result, we have been able to make a second donation of $150 to the ASC to support their excellent work with refugees in Newtown.

New Supporters

We are delighted to tell you that our numbers continue to grow. In the past month, 24 new supporters have joined us. A big welcome to them all. We hope that you will consider getting involved in our activities in the months ahead. There are undoubtedly lots of people out there who would be interested to receive our weekly updates. If you know of anyone, please ask them to sign up by simply emailing us at:
 UN Human Rights Office calls on Australia to end Offshore Detention
The Australian Government’s continued support for offshore detention was strongly opposed this week in a report from the UN Human Rights Office.
The report reads “Australia must show political courage and end the indefinite detention of asylum seekers held on Nauru ”. This statement was made by the new Pacific representative of the United Nation Human Rights Office, Chitralekha Massey.
In an interview with Guardian Australia she said that Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Nauru “is an unsustainable violation”. The continuing reports of abuse, self-harm and sexual assault had created an alarming environment at the centre that Massey said needed be resolved. Massey encouraged the Australian government to bring an end to the detention of men, women and children on Nauru, where hundreds of asylum seekers languished in “not only prolonged, but indefinite” detention. “We have repeatedly reported our concerns around healthcare, around education and  access to justice,” she said.
Massey said that the asylum seekers held on Nauru had to be given the opportunity to resettle in Australia or another country if they had been found to be refugees.
United Nations General Assembly and a key migration summit hosted by the United States president, Barack Obama, will be held next week. The Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, will be both be in attendance.
We await the outcome with concern. It will be interesting to see if international pressure has any influence on our present government’s  policy .
Marlene Griffin

​A beautiful day for the Bellingen Market stall.

Our blog is at and includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers

check out the index of subjects on the blog

The newsletter is sent to 414 recipients


Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

The National RAR web site is at 


Offshore detention is a financial disaster we cannot afford smh 15 April 2016

What if our government really wanted to save money? As well as going after $6.7 billion in its omnibus savings bill, it could go after the billions more it costs to run our immigration detention centres: $9.2 billion in the past three years, $3.9 billion to $5.5 billion in the next four, according to the most complete accounting yet of the costs normally hidden in inaccessible parts of the the budget.
It comes as an Audit Office report identifies the cost per offshore detainee: a gobsmacking $573,100 per year.


Detention's mind-boggling cost

It costs tax-payers more than half-a-million dollars for each asylum seeker detained on Manus Island and Nauru, a new report concludes.
For that price – $1570 per day – we could put them up in a Hyatt and pay them the pension 15 times over.
It costs less than half that, $200,000 a year, to house a typical onshore prisoner; a mere fraction of that, $72,000 including super, to pay a typical full-time worker, and just $20,700 a year to pay a full pensioner.
Ninety-nine per cent of the population don't come anywhere near $573,100 a year in income or cost. The census stops asking when income sails past $156,000.
But the comparison with wages isn't strictly valid. It understates the outrageousness of the $573,100 price tag. The $573,100 isn't being paid in return for a detainee's labour, in return for a contribution to society, as are wages. It is being paid to prevent the detainee contributing to society. It is what economists call a deadweight loss. We get nothing in return for it, apart from less of what we could have had.
And perhaps because it is not meant to make economic sense (and perhaps because the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has operated as something of a law unto itself), it hasn't even made financial sense.
The Audit Office says the department breached public service guidelines by not conducting proper tenders for the contracts to provide services to Manus Island and Nauru, at times falsely claiming it faced urgent and unforeseen circumstances.

Illustration: Joe Benke 

"The available record does not indicate that urgent or unforeseen circumstances existed," the Audit Office says. "The record suggests that the department first selected the provider and then commenced a process to determine the exact nature, scope and price of the services to be delivered."
The department's approach to selecting one provider to service both centres from 2014 "removed competition from the outset". There is no record of staff completing conflict-of-interest declarations, no record of the checks that would have discovered that a director of one of the subcontractors had faced bribery charges and was later acquitted.

Manus Island: Causing suffering to complement and reinforce the 'turnback' strategy was always morally questionable, but it is now unnecessary. Photo: The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship via Getty Images

After being selected without a proper tender, the new provider extracted an extra $1.1 billion from Australian taxpayers, which was agreed to without going back to the contractors who had just been sacked. The price per detainee shot up from $201,000 to $573,100.
Astonishingly, the report says the department didn't tell its minister at the time, Scott Morrison, that the deal required the Commonwealth to pay a "significant premium over and above the historical costs". Nor did it tell him the price per head.
For that price - $1570 per day - we could put them up in the Hyatt and pay them the pension 15 times over.
The department was not only shielded from public accountability, it also managed to hide things from its minister.
UNICEF and Save the Children  get the $9.2 billion figure in their report At What Cost? from the numbers scattered around various parts of the official record. They say there are less specific other costs they haven't included, among them regular independent and senate inquiries, the defence of High Court challenges, and compensation for detention centre employees who have suffered as a result of what they have been exposed to.
Intriguingly, the cost of boat turnbacks, the part of the government's policy that has probably been the most effective in deterring asylum seekers, is tiny by comparison: just $295 million over three years, compared with $9.2 billion for continuing to hold asylum seekers in detention.
And there's a whole other set of costs, which At What Cost wrongly labels non-economic, hidden from the public by gag clauses: self-harm, suicide attempts and mental deterioration, especially among children. Economists would say they destroy human capital. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, titled his magnum opus An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations because he had discovered that that's what gave nations wealth – not gold or notes or coins, but human beings who could provide goods and services.
Deliberately or carelessly deprecating human capital is perhaps the worst crime against humanity. The Commonwealth Treasury thinks so. Chief among the goals in its wellbeing framework is giving people "substantive freedom to lead a life they have reason to value".
It has fallen to Malcolm Turnbull to end a system that has passed its use-by date. Even criminals aren't locked up indefinitely on the pretence that their cases are being "processed". The decision of Papua New Guinea to close the Manus Island detention centre makes a decision more urgent. On Friday he meets the president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, to discuss the way forward. She says we should move from deterrence to prevention. It would cost so much less.
Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age