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Centacare says refugee release 'delayed for poll'

The delayed release of women and children from the Woomera detention centre to the nearby community is politically motivated, according to Centacare in Adelaide.

Five months after Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock flew to Woomera to announce the first trial of an alternative to detention for asylum seekers, his office cannot give a start date for the program. The Immigration Department says nothing will begin until details are worked out on security and conditions.

But Dale West, the director of South Australia's Catholic family service agency, Centacare, believes the Federal Government is holding back until after the election.

"With an election coming along, they don't want to be seen as soft," Mr West said. "I am certainly asking the question that there might be a smelling of the political wind."

Mr Ruddock was attacked in the United Nations this week for Australia's treatment of detainees and his government's use of asylum seekers for political point-scoring.

Mr West said accommodation in Woomera, whose population shrank 18 months ago with the departure of the last of the United States military personnel who had worked at the nearby Nurrungar spy base, was plentiful and introducing the scheme was a matter of political will.