CANBERRA, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) — Australia's controversial "stop the boats" offshore detention program has reportedly cost the government almost 7.5 billion U.S dollars since its inception in 2013 and will cost a further 4 billion over the next four years, a United Nations (UN) study has found.
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) along with Save the Children, Australia's largest child aid agency, found the estimated cost of keeping approximately 2000 asylum seekers and illegal refugees on offshore detention centers comes in at 300,000 U.S dollars per person, compared to just 25, 000 U.S dollars for those on "bridging visas" who are brought to Australia.
Under the "Stop the Boats" philosophy, brought in by then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013, asylum seekers who attempt to settle in Australia by boat are stopped and taken to off-shore processing centers on Manus Island or on Nauru.
The report has recommended an increase in Australia's refugee intake to reduce the taxpayer burden, as well as a policy reversal on turning boats around - something the study said puts those fleeing persecution at greater risk.
"Our policies attempt to coerce those fleeing persecution to stay where they are, to wait indefinitely and to endure countless dangers, indignities and lives lived in limbo," the report said.
"What's more, Australia's current deterrence policies set a dangerous precedent which, if replicated elsewhere, will increasingly result in tides of men, women and children pushed up against closed borders.
"If faith in our global refugee system is completely destroyed, the result will be a future in which people simply do not flee persecution at all and remain where they are to suffer whatever fate may befall them in countries not willing or able to protect them."
But earlier this week the government said it would not be reviewing its hard-line approach to illegal asylum seekers; Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government would not "deviate because the people smugglers are still there in Indonesia, and in Sri Lanka and Vietnam and elsewhere trying to put syndicates together to put people on to boats."
The report is expected to increase pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who will incidentally travel to New York next week to attend a summit on refugees called by U.S President Barrack Obama.