9 Nov 2015

Former Australian PM defends refugee policy

7:43 am on 9 November 2015

Australia's former prime minister has defended her government's asylum seeker policies and the re-opening of detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Julia Gillard speaks at the University of Auckland.

Julia Gillard defended her stance on asylum seekers arriving to Australia on boats with the help of people-smugglers. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Julia Gillard says she supported the controversial offshore detention policy for what she calls humanitarian reasons.

Ms Gillard says her Labor government took a hardline approach to asylum seekers because it had to deal with the reality of the people smuggling trade, saying she stands by her decisions.

The detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru have been condemned by rights groups and the United Nations for the conditions asylum seekers -- particularly children -- are kept in.

There have been numerous hunger strikes, protests, and complaints of physical and sexual assaults at the centres.

But Ms Gillard says the tough response has a humanitarian underpinning motivated by stopping dangerous ocean voyages by desperate asylum seekers.