Asylum seekers’ $1.4 billion hotel bill
HUNDREDS of illegal boat people transferred to Australia for medical treatment are being put up in luxury hotels, with at a least one staying in a hotel for almost three years at taxpayers' expense.
The Daily Telegraph has learned the government has spent $1.4 billion on accommodation for medical transferees from Manus Island and Nauru over the past five years and fears costs will soar under Labor-backed changes to soften the nation's border protection laws.
Hotel and serviced apartment chains such as the Meriton, Medina and Holiday Inn are commonly used to house families, costing upwards of $300 per room per night, along with guarded townhouses in the community that cost $4000 a month.
The huge price-tag has been revealed as Labor thrashes out its refugee policy at its national conference in Adelaide today.
Bill Shorten's decision to back the Greens and crossbench plan to allow asylum seekers and refugees into Australia with the sign-off of only two doctors has been widely seen an attempt to head off significant changes to Labor's border protection policy.
It comes after senior figures across both factions flagged a desire to end indefinite offshore detention.
Consideration has been given to strengthening the language in the draft national policy platform, which states that Labor will "explore options other than indefinite detention".
Since July 2013 about 1500 individuals and family members, including 669 people who were not genuine refugees, have been transferred to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru on medical grounds.
Among the apartments they lived in was a well-appointed two-bedroom suite at Meriton Paramatta.
A search shows the rooms cost about $300 a night, and feature two separate bedrooms, a flat-screen TV, music system, unlimited free Wi-Fi, and full kitchen and laundry with stainless steel appliances.
Stays in serviced apartments and hotels on their arrival ranged from one day to, in some cases, 1096 days.
One source told The Daily Telegraph a number of asylum seekers refused room service food provided at the hotels, saying simply "Serco", in reference to the security company used to guard transferees. Asylum seekers considered dangerous are not housed in hotels or townhouses but kept in onshore detention centres.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said hotels were "not a long-term plan" for medical transferees and the practice had been going on for "many years".
However, he said the costs would soar under the plans to change the medical transfer rules.
"I remember under the Labor days that was an issue because more and more people were coming every day. We put an end to that. (Under Labor's plan) they'll all come."
"And there'll be nothing to stop it."
Mr Morrison said that there was a chance Australians could be complacent about the risks faced with weakening border policy.
"You might say to yourself, 'gee, do we still need all this'? The answer is yes. Because the minute you ease it up is the minute it starts again."