By Numbers: Australia's Offshore Detention System

'By Numbers' is a recurring feature that appears in our print magazine – where we use numbers in a snapshot way to try and reveal the true breadth and depth of an issue. This ‘By Numbers' on Australia's Offshore Detention System, using the most recent data available at that time, was originally published in March 2017 in Issue 33 of our print magazine.



Estimated number of refugees settled in Australia between 1901-2016: 854,23
Year last vestiges of the White Australia Policy were removed from immigration policy: 1973
Year of first person seeking asylum in Australia, arriving by boat: 1976
Number of skilled stream permanent visas provided by Australia between 2015-2016: 128,550
Of refugees resettled in Australia through UNHCR: 17,555
Estimated annual revenue generated by visa applications: $1,914 million
Estimated number of people forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of conflict and persecution across 2015: 65.3 million
Number of recorded deaths on migratory routes worldwide in 2016: 7,509
In Southeast Asia: 156
Number of deaths associated with Australia’s borders since 2000: 1,991
Of drownings: 1,905
Of suicides: 22
Australia’s (nominal) GDP world rank: 19
Papua New Guinea’s: 111 Nauru’s: 195
Average cost of holding one person seeking asylum in offshore detention for a year: $500,000
Of settling one person in the community for a year while their claim is being processed: $15,000
Average number of days people seeking asylum spent in immigration detention centres: 478
Proportion who have been detained for more than two years: 23.6%
Number of women seeking asylum who miscarried in Manus, believed to be attributed as side-effect of anti-malarial medication: 3
Number of washing machines available in Nov 2013 to the over four hundred men housed in the Foxtrot compound of Manus: 1
Number of incidents of self-harm in onshore detention centres between July 2014-2015: 706
Estimated medical cost per person of treating mental illness provoked by prolonged detention: $25,000
Number of times Faysal Ishak Ahmed sought medical help on Manus in the two months before he died: 13
Incidents of child abuse recorded between May 2013-October 2015 in Nauru: 1,086
Countries other than Australia that indefinitely imprison children seeking asylum: 0



Sources: Missing Migrants Project; The Refugee Council of Australia’s report ‘Refugee Needs and Trends: A Statistical Snapshot’; Asylum Insight; the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, ‘Year at a glance: 2015-2016’ and ‘Immigration Detention Statistics for 31 December 2016’; Madeline Gleeson, Offshore (NewSouth Books); ‘The Messenger’Podcast, from Behind The Wire and The Wheeler Centre; The Australian Border Deaths Database by The Border Crossing Observatory; Australian National Audit Office report ‘Offshore Processing Centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea: Procurement of Garrison Support and Welfare Services’, 2016.


The Manus Island processing centre was offiially closed on October 31, 2017. Refugees in Manus prison were forcibly removed from the facility on November 24, 2017.