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  • Australia's asylum seeker policy has been derided both at home and abroad as ineffective and draconian. (Photo: Reuters)

    Australia's asylum seeker policy has been derided both at home and abroad as ineffective and draconian. (Photo: Reuters) | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 November 2014

Two U.N. agencies condemned Australia's hardline asylum seeker regime in the space of just a few hours.

The United Nations Committee on Torture issued a damning report Friday on conditions for asylum seekers in Australia's offshore detention facilities.

“It is pretty clear from the nature of the U.N. report that Australia is gaining a reputation on the world stage as a law-breaker,” Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Center told Radio New Zealand.

The committee urged Australia to end mandatory detention for asylum seekers, and called on authorities to ensure claims for refugee status are seriously assessed.

The Australian government has vowed to keep asylum seekers off the country's shores with a system of offshore detention centers on the island nation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott has claimed the approach is necessary to protect Australia's borders from threats such as “economic migrants” and human traffickers.

Yet the policy has been derided both at home and abroad as ineffective and draconian, while asylum seekers themselves have held regular protests inside detention centers.

The U.N. committee reported about asylum seekers live in overcrowded camps, with poor facilities such as limited access to health care.

“The combination of these harsh conditions, the protracted periods of closed detention and the uncertainty about the future reportedly creates serious physical and mental pain and suffering,” the report concluded.

The same day the report was released, Australia's handling of asylum seekers also drew fire from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Indonesia, Thomas Vargas.

According to Vargas, Australia's detention of asylum seeking children violates one of the most widely ratified U.N. human rights treaties, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The impact, the negative impact that it has on a child's life at the very beginning of their life, to put them in this type of horrible situation, you can just imagine the negative consequences that it has on their psyche, on their wellbeing," he said, according to Australian public broadcaster ABC.

“Not only is it not humanitarian, but it's illegal under international law,” Vargas added.

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