Responding to unauthorised arrivals

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Cat Barker and Harriet Spinks

As had been widely predicted, the 2013–14 Budget includes significant additional funding for costs associated with the detention and processing of Irregular Maritime Arrivals (IMAs), as well as for measures aimed at combatting people smuggling.[1]  Numbers of asylum seekers arriving unauthorised by boat have increased dramatically in the past year, despite the Government’s attempt to stem the flow of arrivals through the implementation of recommendations made by its Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers—over 18,000 IMAs have arrived since the Panel’s report was released on 13 August 2012.[2]

Asylum seeker management

Prior to 2012–13 all Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) funding for managing IMAs, including detention and processing costs, as well as regional cooperation efforts aimed at curbing arrivals, was provided under a single program measure—Program 4.3 Offshore Asylum Seeker Management. In the 2012–13 Budget the costs were divided between three programs. Program 4.3 is now concerned only with the care and management of IMAs in detention centres, community detention, or in the community on a Bridging Visa. Other expenditure falls under Program 4.5 Regional Cooperation and Associated Activities and Program 4.6 Refugee Status Determination for Offshore Entry Persons.[3]

The bulk of the increased funding for IMAs in the 2013–14 Budget is in Program 4.3, which has been allocated $2.9 billion for 2013–14, up from $2.1 billion in the revised 2012–13 Budget (which was itself an increase from the $1.05 billion initially allocated for 2012–13).[4] Funding for regional cooperation has not altered significantly, and funding for refugee status determination (RSD) has been removed from DIAC’s budget altogether, as responsibility for this will be transferred to the Refugee Review Tribunal.[5] The increased funding for IMAs is almost entirely in the area of detention and care in the community. The Budget also includes costs associated with the establishment of Regional Processing Centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. In addition the Budget has allocated $15.7 million in capital funding for the current year (but nothing for 2013–14 or the forward estimates) for upgrades to the immigration detention network.[6] The costs associated with the management of IMAs are predicted to decline over the forward estimates, down to $1.4 billion in 2016–17, which is a reflection of the Government’s hope that numbers of arrivals will decline as it continues to implement the recommendations of the Expert Panel.[7] However, the experience of the last several years is that costs in this area have actually increased, and budgets have been substantially revised upwards.[8]

While DIAC has received no further funding for Program 4.6 Refugee Status Determination for Offshore Entry Persons, it has been allocated $16.6 million over two years for legal expenses associated with refugee status determinations (RSD) for IMAs, which the High Court has determined are judicially reviewable, and a review of Australia’s RSD system.[9] This reflects the fact that a large number of negative primary asylum decisions for IMAs are currently being overturned on appeal.[10]

Combating people smuggling

Significant funding was allocated to counter people smuggling measures in the 2009–10 and
2011–12 Budgets.[11] In the 2013–14 Budget, $160.8 million has been allocated under the banner of combating people smuggling, all of which will go towards measures that are essentially extensions of those due to expire at the end of 2012–13.[12] The bulk of this additional funding will go to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) and DIAC. Customs will receive $68.4 million to increase surveillance and patrol activities and improve response capability in Australia’s northern waters, including extending leases on vessels, increasing the number of patrol days and deploying an additional patrol vessel and surveillance aircraft.[13] Of the $55 million allocated to DIAC, $50 million will go towards efforts to reduce irregular migration to Australia through improved engagement with source and transit countries.[14] The Government has also committed $9.9 million of existing Department of Defence resources in 2013–14 to continue Operation Resolute, which is the Defence contribution to surveillance activities led by Border Protection Command.[15]

As illustrated in the table below, more than half of the additional funding will be spent in 2013–14, with only one of the seven measures allocated funding over the forward estimates. Given that people smuggling networks have proven to be adaptable and resilient, and the number of people in need of asylum remains high, the need for counter measures will undoubtedly extend beyond this financial year and require consideration in the 2014–15 Budget.[16]

Table: New funding in the 2013–14 Budget for combating people smuggling ($m)

Measure

Agency(a)

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

Total

Law enforcement

AFP

-

3.0

-

-

-

3.0

Post-interdiction management of SIEVs

Customs

-

-

-

-

-

3.8(b)

Prevention and disruption

Customs

3.6

6.4

-

-

-

13.6

DIAC

1.9

1.7

-

-

-

Strengthening response capability

Customs

15.3

53.1

-

-

-

68.4

Continuation of preventative initiatives

DFAT

-

4.3

-

-

-

4.3

Disruption activities

DIAC

-

1.9

 

 

 

1.9

Enhancing the regional response

DIAC

-

16.2

13.8

9.9

10.1

65.8

AGD

-

3.2

3.6

4.5

4.5

Total

20.8

89.8

17.4

14.4

14.6

160.8

(a) Australian Federal Police (AFP); Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); Attorney-General’s Department (AGD)
(b) This amount will be met from within Customs’ existing resources.
Source: Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2013–14



[1].       For example see S Morrison, Labor must come clean on $5 billion asylum budget black hole, media release,  9 May 2013, accessed 16 May 2013.

[2].       Figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library based on media releases from the Minister for Home Affairs.

[3].       Australia, Parliamentary Library, Responding to unauthorised arrivals, Budget Review 2012–13, Research Paper, 9, 2011–12, Parliamentary Library, 2012, accessed 16 May 2013.

[5].       Ibid. p. 52.

[6].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, 2013, p. 294, accessed 16 May 2013.

[8].       Parliamentary Library, Budget Review 2012–13, op. cit.

[9].       Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, op .cit., p. 200.

[10].     See DIAC Asylum Trends Australia 2011–12, DIAC, Canberra, 2012, p. 30, accessed 16 May 2013.

[11].     See Australia, Parliamentary Library, Budget review 2009–10, Research paper, 33, 2008–09, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2009, accessed 15 May 2013 and Australia, Parliamentary Library, Budget review 2011–12, Research paper, 13, 2010–11, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2010, accessed 15 May 2013.

[12].     Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, op. cit., pp. 87–89, 159, 197–198.

[13].     Ibid., p. 89.

[14].     Ibid., p. 198.

[15].     Ibid., p. 111.

[16].     C Barker, The people smugglers’ business model, Research paper,  2, 2012–13, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2013, accessed 15 May 2013; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Global trends 2011, UNHCR, 2012, accessed 15 May 2013.

For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.


© Commonwealth of Australia

In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.

To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.

Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to webmanager@aph.gov.au.

This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.

Feedback is welcome and may be provided to: web.library@aph.gov.au. Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print
Back to top