Australia eases policy on refugee children

Ministers have softened their policy on expelling unaccompanied children who enter Australia to seek asylum, after an outcry from UN agencies and activists.

All children will be considered on a case-by-case basis before being sent to Malaysia under a planned refugee-swap deal, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

The statement reverses a government announcement last week that no exceptions would be made for any children who enter Australia without a parent or guardian. "We'll have appropriate measures in place on an individual basis to deal with what are a relatively small number of cases of unaccompanied minors," Mr Bowen said.

Australia has long attracted people from poor, often war-ravaged countries.