A surge in asylum seekers held in detention centres on Australia's mainland and Pacific island outposts is proving to be a growing money spinner for companies contracted by the Immigration Department.

A long list of companies including charter airlines, hire firms and blue-chip transport companies entered into, or held, contracts with the department last year. Across all its operations, the department had contracts worth more than $8 billion last year.

The largest beneficiary was Serco, which holds $1.8 billion in contracts to run Australia's detention centres, but others show the effects of ballooning numbers of asylum seekers on Australia's territories.

Sydney firm Pillingers Hiring Service had a $500,000 contract to supply marquees for temporary accommodation for asylum seekers on Christmas Island between October and December.

And the Cocos Club, the only pub on the tiny West Island in the Indian Ocean, had another contract for $103,000 to provide temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, and to clean the club afterwards.

Charter airlines are also making more from the increased flow of asylum seekers to Australian shores.

Brisbane freight airline Pacific Air Express last week sought approval to operate three services a week to Nauru for the next five years. It was not contracted by the department last year but has deals with Australian suppliers to fly ''general goods and food'' to the detention centre on the Pacific island.

The cargo airline has been flying Boeing 737 freighter aircraft to Nauru since September but wants to turn the charter services into scheduled flights.

Pacific Air Express declined to comment but industry insiders say the airline is likely to want scheduled flights because of the increasing number of asylum seekers being held on Nauru.

Most supplies for the island are now flown in rather than shipped.

Queensland's Adagold Aviation again did most of the flying of asylum seekers last year after winning department contracts totalling more than $41 million. The contracts involved mostly charter flights between the mainland and immigration hot spots such as Nauru, and the Cocos, Christmas and Manus islands.

One of the deals to fly charters to ''various DIAC locations'' between November and February totalled $15 million. On September 10, an Adagold passenger flight from Brisbane to Nauru cost $151,200, while multiple flights to the Pacific island on one day in October totalled $572,000.

The department is required only to list contracts worth more than $100,000, and has removed from its website those deals it made in 2011. A spokeswoman said previous years' contracts were not publicly available.

Queensland builder Canstruct also won a $103 million contract last year to build the regional processing centre on Nauru.

Toll Holdings' remote logistics division had air-charter contracts totalling more than $11 million. It also had a $2.25 million contract to provide ''kitchen rental'' on Manus Island between October and April, and $1.9 million for ''rental of kitchen - refrigeration storage and mobilisation'' on Nauru.

The transport giant has been searching for new contracts for its remote logistics business to offset the end to its provision of services for Australian troops in East Timor.

 

Where the money goes

Queensland builder Canstruct: $102.8 million contract for ''managing contractor contract for the Nauru regional processing centre'' between November 8 and the end of this June

Albatross Hotel Resort: $3.3 million and $1.7 million for hotel rooms for immigration and other staff working at the Scherger detention centre.

Adagold Aviation: More than $41 million for charter flights from the mainland to immigration hot spots such as Nauru and Manus, Christmas and Cocos islands.

Toll Remote Logistics: Air charter worth more than $11 million. Toll also charged $2.25 million for a ''kitchen rental'' on Manus Island between October and April, and $1.9 million of ''rental of kitchen - refrigeration storage and mobilisation'' on Nauru between last September and June this year.

Pillingers Hiring Service: $501,600 to provide ''contingency accommodation marquees'' at Christmas Island between October and December last year when conditions grew crowded.

Serco Australia: $1.76 billion (it has since been revised up to $1.86 billion).

Cocos Club: $103,000 for the island's club (its only pub) providing temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, and cleaning the club afterwards.

Cocos Islands Co-operative Society: $1.18 million for hire charges for landing aircraft.