The Australian government has paid Nauru almost $29m on monthly visa fees to keep asylum seekers and refugees in the island’s detention centre.Since the Nauru facility was reopened in 2012 the visa fee for asylum seekers had been raised to $1,000 per person per month, the immigration department has confirmed in response to questions from the February Senate estimates.
“The current cost for visas for transferees and refugees in Nauru is $1,000 per month per person. An amount of $27,893,633 has been paid to 30 March for transferee visas (paid quarterly) and an amount of $1,008,000 to 24 February 2015 for refugee visas.”
The visa costs are in addition to the already substantial fees Australia pays major contractors to manage the detention centre on the island. Transfield Services has a $1.2bn contract for its management role at the centre. Save the Children receives $36m for welfare services to minors on the island.
Canstruct Pty Ltd receives $52m for construction services to develop detention facilities for asylum seekers on the island.
Australia also regularly pays fees to corporations run by the Nauru government.
Digicel Nauru, which is part owned by the Nauruan government, received $3m for upgrades to telecommunications and internet infrastructure. Eigigu Holdings, a key holding company for the Nauruan government, was paid $5m for providing accommodation to Australian staff.
The $1,000 per month fee for asylum seekers is substantially higher than any other visa price for the island nation.
Nauru came under heavy criticism in 2014 when it raised the application fee for journalists to $8,000, increased from just $200.