By JR on Sunday, September 19, 2010
Why does Australia owe these people anything? Nobody asked them to come to Australia and they undoubtedly came at their own risk
DOZENS of asylum-seekers have been awarded $5.4 million in compensation payouts for injuries they suffered while in detention. Official figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph reveal more than 50 immigration detainees have pocketed an average of $100,000 each over the past two years.
The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal that an outbreak of the infectious diseases typhoid and tuberculosis has hit the overflowing detention centre on Christmas Island.
The Federal Government refused to detail the reasons for the multimillion-dollar payouts to detainees, saying only they were related to wrongful detention or injuries suffered in detention.
A Department of Immigration spokesman said compensation payouts and disease outbreaks were "inevitable" given the large number of asylum-seekers in detention. "This is a department that deals with 26 million interactions with human beings every year - border crossings, visas, compliance," spokesman Sandi Logan said. "It's the law of averages - some may well choose to litigate against us or, in some rare cases, we may be at fault and have to pay out under Comcare and Comcover."
But the number of compensation payouts has exploded over the past two years. According to figures supplied by the department, there were 32 cases in 2008-09, with a total payout of $3.3 million, and 22 cases between July, 2009 and May, 2010, involving a total of $2.1 million. Most cases were paid out by the Federal Government's insurer, Comcover.
The number of compensation claims involving immigration detainees has been growing from a trickle in 2000, but total payouts of $12.3 million over the past 10 years have included two huge payments to Australians wrongfully detained.
The figures show that between 2000 and 2005, there were only four cases, with a total payout of $163,225. In 2005-06, there was one payout of $200,000. In 2006-07, there were four cases, including a settlement with the wrongly deported Australian Vivian Solon, costing $2.6 million.
Ms Solon was mistakenly deported to the Philippines. Gravely ill, she was found in a hospice north of Manila by a Catholic priest in 2005.
In 2007-08, there was a record payout in dollar terms with 13 cases for a total of $4 million, including one for another wrongly detained and wrongly deported Australian, Cornelia Rau.
As officials struggle to stem the flow of boat arrivals, the Federal Government has been forced to spend another $50 million on increasing the capacity of detention facilities on the mainland to cope with the more than 5000 asylum-seekers now in detention.
The compensation bill is likely to blow out many times more, as the claims paid out in the past two years relate to asylum-seekers in detention prior to August, 2007 when there were a fraction of the numbers now.