Amnesty logoIt’s expensive to keep anyone in detention, especially the remote, grim detention centres found on Christmas Island, so it is worth asking why our government would want to squander so much money locking up asylum seekers for such limitless periods – what are we getting in return?

Obviously we are getting psychological abuse of a handful of desperate individuals, but that can’t be enough for today’s politicians: there must be some sort of gain for them. Let’s look at the process.

So we lock up boat arrivals as per criminals – although in the past couple of years roughly 90-95% of them turn out to be genuine refugees, and even if you are not a genuine refugee, applying for refugee status is not illegal or we would have no refugees, and thus be sending everyone home, many to be executed. We lock these people up for indefinite periods of time – a torture unlike even convicted criminals must endure – in the expensive and ineptly-run jailing service provided by the company we outsource to, Serco. We keep them in these jails where they are treated like criminals under circumstances that would lead most people to suffer mental health problems, are surprised when they exhibit mental health problems, and then respond by threatening to take away even more legal rights – even shooting at them. Controlling this process becomes more expensive. It would be much cheaper to process all boat arrivals in community housing within a few weeks, just as plenty of other countries manage, to everyone’s benefit (Norway is just one example). So what are we paying for?

There’s no reason on earth to give one person different legal rights to another, no matter who they are or where they come from. The only reason to do so would be to appeal to a minority of Australians who like to see ethnic suffering, not because they are sadists, but because it misguidedly makes them feel safe. So are we trading the psychological harm of others and a wad of cash for the false sense of security of a few Australians? Yes. Who benefits from that? A few politicians looking to win them over.

Thus, it seems we are paying the company Serco for a very expensive – expensive in taxpayer costs and human costs – political campaign. It is paid for not by the beneficiaries of this despicable service – mainstream political parties and Serco – but by Australians with their wallets and moreover asylum seekers with their lives and their health.

Ergo, locking up asylum seekers is an expensive political campaign.