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Unanticipated boat arrivals threatens budget surplus

Unanticipated boat arrivals threatens budget surplus

The recent spate of boat arrivals is threatening to blow out the budget and therefore threaten the promised surplus, according to the Australian newspaper.

Since the beginning of the financial year, 5,384 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia or been housed in Australian run detention facilities. The crew who run the boats increases that number by another hundred or so.

The budget mapped out the expectations for 5,400 asylum seekers over an entire financial year which is why surplus expectations have fallen.

This comes as the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the Department of Immigration may have to renegotiate its contract with the firm that staffs immigration facilities across the country.

Since November and the release of the mid-year budget, the cost of staffing these facilities as contracted with Serco has doubled. It previously cost $1 billion to staff the facilities but has risen upwards towards $1.6 billion.

The contract with Serco applies until 2014, meaning that this massive increase in the budget must be absorbed.

The 1,500 bed facility in the Northern Territory is the main reason behind this huge jump in price.

It comes as 18 Sri Lankan asylum seekers opted to return home rather than face the prospect of inhabiting a detention centre on Nauru.

The opposition spokeswoman on foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, told ABC 24 this act by those 18 Sri Lankans highlights the inadequacies of Chris Bowen's policies.

"It does call into question the government's processing of applications from Sri Lanka since the civil war in Sri Lanka ended three years ago," she said.

Chris Bowen at the weekend (September 22) announced that the government will adopt another of the recommendations of the Houston panel, that is, that family reunions concession for boat people will be removed. This is in an attempt to further deter asylum seekers who choose to come to Australia illegally by boat.

In a media release, Bowen said that this is all part of the government's mandate to reduce boat arrivals and deaths at sea because of those journeys.

"We don't want people risking their lives at sea on dangerous boat journeys and together with the implementation of the other panel recommendations, this measure provides clear evidence of the government's determination to break the people smugglers' business model," he said.

The Houston panel was convened in the beginning of August to assess the situation on illegal boat arrivals of those without an immigration visa and establish recommendations to prevent boat deaths. A political deadlock on the issue meant that no legislation was established to deal with the issue.

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