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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Australia funds asylum game
By Dominic Hughes
BBC, Sydney

Australia's immigration minister has criticised the government's own arts funding body after it awarded a grant to the creators of a new computer game, called Escape from Woomera.

Refugees breakout from the Woomera Detention Centre in March 2002
The notorious Woomera camp was the scene of mass breakouts

In the game, players try to escape from an Australian detention centre for asylum seekers, using methods that have actually been employed by some detainees in the past.

The creators of Escape from Woomera have been given a grant worth more than $15,000 by the government-funded Australia Council to develop their proposed game.

It will be modelled on some of the country's most controversial detention centres - recreating the exact conditions using television footage, press and radio reports, as well as interviews with former detainees and guards.

The object of the game is to escape by digging tunnels, scaling fences or via the efforts of refugee action groups or sympathetic lawyers.

The creators say the game is a reaction to the federal government's policy of restricting media access to the centres.

But Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock says the Australia Council has lent its name to the promotion of unlawful behaviour.

The decision reflects poorly on its judgement, he says.

The Australia Council disagrees. A spokesman said he was aware the project could be controversial, but insisted the grant application met all the criteria.

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