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Australia refugee policy attacked

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Kevin Rudd (file image)
PM Kevin Rudd promised to end controversial asylum policy when he took power

Australia's human rights watchdog has condemned the country's treatment of refugees.

Asylum seekers were being held in "utterly miserable conditions" for prolonged periods of time, the Human Rights Commission said.

Children continued to be detained, it said in its annual report.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised a more humane refugee policy when he was elected in November 2007 and scrapped the policy of mandatory detention.

But a report from the government's own human rights watchdog has found that refugees continue to be held in poor conditions.

'Prisons'

Most detention centres had the feel of prisons, the report said, with razor wire, cramped conditions and detainees kept under surveillance.

At the detention centre in Sydney, inmates slept in dormitory-style bunk beds, with little privacy and few areas to exercise.

The commission described the conditions there as "utterly miserable".

It also found that children continued to be detained, despite a pledge from the government to end that practice.

Of the almost 200 people in detention, over 40 had been held for more than two years. One person had been detained for six years.

Most detainees, the report said, experienced frustration, anger, distress and depression.

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