An 88-year-old retired judge in Australia has offered to swap places with a refugee being held in one of the country's offshore detention centres in the Pacific and to "live out" his remaining years in detention.

Jim Macken, a former industrial court judge in New South Wales, wrote to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to offer to trade places with a refugee. He has yet to receive a reply.

"If I had to, I am willing to go," he said. "I only have one or two more years to live. I asked him to agree quietly to let a refugee come here and I would go wherever they want me to go if that is the price I have to pay."

Macken, who was awarded an Order of Australia in 2003, said he wrote to the minister in late July but does not expect to receive a reply. He has offered to give up his citizenship and remain on one of the Pacific islands for the rest of his life.


"Like many people in Australia, I was getting fed up," he said. "These people are being used as human sandbags. It is just not right."

Australia has adopted some of the world's toughest approaches to migrants, including deporting all asylum-seekers who arrive by sea to detention centres in Nauru, a tiny Pacific nation, or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Riots and disturbances have broken out at the centres, which have been criticised as unlawful by the United Nations and aid groups. Refugees, including women and children, have allegedly been assaulted and raped and there have been multiple suicide attempts and incidents of self-harm.