THE president of an organisations which fights for the rights of refugees says the government's current policies brutalise and humiliate some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said current approaches to deter, expel and repel people who want to seek asylum in Australia are not sustainable.
"If the government used the billions of dollars it's spending now on helping the region we could be at the forefront of protecting people," Mr Glendenning said.
"We could stop the boats by solving some of the problems that are causing people to flee.
"Simple deterrence is not an effective approach in the long term."
He said Refugee Week, which is this week and includes World Refugee Day on Friday, is about celebrating the wonderful things refugees have done over the years.
"This week is all about letting their voices be heard.
"Australia's current approach isn't being cruel to be kind, it's just cruel and the government needs to hear the majority of people don't support it.
"This cruelty is utterly unlawful and it flies in the face of Australia's policies for the past 50 years.
"Everyone in this country apart from the Aborigines are descended from migrants or refugees so really we are being cruel to future Australians.
"This is also utterly unlawful under international law and we're out of step on this with other developed nations.
"We're appealing to all Australians to return to treating refugees fairly."
The council has made "Restoring Hope" the Refugee Week theme for 2012 to 2014.
"The theme reminds us that while a refugee's journey begins with danger it also begins with hope," the council's website states.
"Refugees not only flee persecution but they have hope: they hope to find freedom from persecution and safety and security for themselves and relatives."