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The 2015-2016 Federal Budget sees a continued emphasis on the deterrence of asylum seekers and offshore settlement.

The budget provides funding to continue campaigns focused on deterring asylum seekers, at a cost of $39.9m over four years. The government has stated that these campaigns will be directed at both a domestic audience and audiences in source and transit countries.

The budget provides further funding for Australian Border Force officials to be stationed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka as part of efforts to deter asylum seekers. This is estimated to cost $4.7m, up from $3.7m under the 2014-15 budget.

The number of days for which the Australian Customs Vessel Ocean Shield is available for duties related to Operation Sovereign Borders will be increased from 180 to 300 days each year from 2015-16 to 2017-18. Under the Defence portfolio, a total of $53.6m is provided during 2015-16 and 2016-17 for the continuation of Operation Resolute, Defence’s contribution to the government’s border protection operations.

The budget maintains funding for the implementation of refugee settlement offshore or the removal of asylum seekers who are not found to be owed protection. This funding is allocated across 2014-15 to 2015-16. The government’s statement indicates that this funding relates to Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, and includes $141.9m in capital funding for settlement related infrastructure, and another $247.6m for other services such as case management, accommodation, education and health.

The cost of detaining and processing asylum seekers offshore is estimated at almost $811m in 2015-16. While this figure will be $100m lower than the estimated final costs for 2014-15, with further reductions in the forward estimates for 2016-18, it is worth noting that at this time last year the cost of offshore processing for 2014-15 was originally estimated at almost $827m rather than the final estimated figure of almost $913m.

Aid to offshore processing and settlement countries was as follows: Cambodia remained steady, at $52.4m; Nauru steady at $21.2m and aid to Papua New Guinea reduced by $25m to $477.3m. Australian aid to Indonesia has been cut from $542m to $323m. Australia’s foreign aid to individual countries in the Asia-Pacific and other areas of the world can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

The cost of processing asylum seekers onshore in 2015-16 is estimated at almost $1.49b, including $1.07m for ‘returns, removals and reintegration packages’. This is a $500m reduction on the final estimates for 2014-15, which are set at more than $1.9b, however as with offshore processing, this final total for 2014-15 is $140m higher than as set out under last year’s budget.

This year’s budget also accounts for the further closure of detention centres, including Phosphate Hill and Construction Camp on Christmas Island, and, as announced earlier this year, Bladin Point APOD in Darwin. This continues a policy provided for under the 2014-15 budget, which saw the closure of 10 facilities.

The 2015-16 refugee and humanitarian intake will be set at 13,750 places, with a minimum of 11,000 places for the Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program. This figure of 13,750 is fairly consistent with the annual intake from 2008-09 to 2011-12, however the intake was increased to 20,000 places for the financial year 2012-13 under the previous Labor government. When the Coalition came into office in 2013, the intake was reduced back to 13,750. As in 2014-15, there will be around 1,000 places for the Women at Risk program within this quota. The humanitarian program will increase to 16,250 places in 2017-18 and 18,750 places in 2018-19.

The Refugee Council of Australia will not receive funding in 2015-16. Australia’s contribution to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will be reduced through a revision of funding for 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The budget provides $3m for application assistance for asylum seekers in Australia, yet as the Refugee Council of Australia explains, it is unclear whether asylum seekers who arrived without a valid visa are eligible for this scheme. The budget also provides for asylum seekers who arrived by plane to have access to the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme at a cost of $20.8m in 2015-16.

As noted by the Refugee Council of Australia, under the Education and Training Portfolio the 2015-16 budget provides for $14.5m to expand the provision of up to 510 hours of English language tuition under the Adult Migrant English Program. According to the government’s statement, the program will now include refugees on Temporary Protection Visas, Safe Haven Enterprise Visas and Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) Visas. Under the Social Services portfolio, the budget provides for $22.1m over four years to improve the employment and educational outcomes of vulnerable young migrants and young refugees.

Further information on the 2015 Budget can be found here:
Portfolio Budget Statements 2015-16: Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio
Refugee Council of Australia, 2015-16 Federal Budget in Brief

The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.