|Australia slashes refugee intake to save costs
Australia's policy of sending asylum-seekers offshore to tent camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru will weigh on the budget and cost A$2 billion (US$1.79 billion) over four years, officials said.
In releasing a mid-year economic outlook, Treasurer Joe Hockey said there was a A$1.2 billion shortfall in funding for offshore processing.
Canberra began sending asylum-seekers who arrived by boat to PNG's Manus Island and Nauru in late 2012, and in July hardened the policy to ensure that all arrivals would not only be processed but resettled offshore, AFP reports.
Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government said it would save A$964.5 million over four years by cutting the humanitarian refugee intake from 20,000 to 13,750 places.
It also costed a range of measures designed to crack down on the people-smuggling trade. Some A$40.9 million will be spent over three years to help regional countries to detect and disrupt asylum-seeker boats, while A$81.2 million will go towards increasing the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service's operations.
The government will also pour A$19.9 million over four years into “community engagement and communications activities to help prevent and disrupt maritime people-smuggling activities.’’
Broadcaster ABC reported that this money had earlier been earmarked for the government's controversial scheme to buy decrepit Indonesian fishing boats – a policy that angered Indonesia.