APN NewsdeskREFUGEES planning to come to Australia can expect to be held in conditions that do not meet international standards of treatment, the United Nations human rights agency has found.
Two reports from the UNHCR released late on Tuesday found conditions at the offshore detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island impacted "very profoundly" on detainees.
UNHCR director of international protection Volker Turk said while the agency understood Australia's "determination to respond robustly" to people smuggling, it must not come at the cost of neglecting the protection and safety of asylum seekers.
"These reports must be seen in the context of what UNHCR has observed to be a sharp deterioration, during the course of the year, in the overall quality of protection and support available to asylum seekers and refugees who come to Australia by boat," he said.
"Indeed, they highlight that when policies and practices are based primarily on deterrence, they can have harmful and, at times, punishing consequences for people affected, particularly families and children."
Agency regional representative Richard Towle said the current policy of detaining people at the offshore centres did not meet international standards, and also impacted very profoundly on the men, women and children housed there.
"In particular, they constitute mandatory detention that is not compatible with international law, they do not provide a fair and efficient system for assessing refugee claims, do not provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention, and do not provide for adequate and timely solutions for recognized refugees," he said.
Mr Towle said the agency also called on all three countries involved - Australia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea - to ensure no children were held in offshore centres, as they currently are.
But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who has been tight lipped about the conditions at the centre, said Australia was working with both Papua New Guinea and Nauru to improve the centres.
He said the Coalition was working on improving the capacity and conditions at the centre, and expected capacity to double within 100 days of taking office.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.