18 Sep 2002

Australian churches call for change in refugee policy

10:48 am on 18 September 2002

Australian churches have called for a radical overhaul of the nation's controversial refugee policy, saying mandatory detention and the diversion of boatpeople to Pacific neighbours were inhumane.

Australia detains all asylum seekers in camps while their refugee claims are heard, a process that can take years.

For the last year the government has turned away boatpeople, diverting them to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing.

A spokesman for the immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, has dismissed the churches' proposals as unrealistic, saying overseas governments had found 85 percent of immigrants who were ordered deported disappeared into the community.

The criticism comes a day after Mr Ruddock's daughter said she objected to her father's refugee policies and was leaving Australia.