Australia detention policy hurts reputation - HRW

7:55 pm on 13 January 2017

Human Rights Watch says the Australian government's policy of detaining asylum seekers and refugees in Pacific countries has caused lasting damage to the country's reputation abroad.

Protest by refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Protest by refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. Photo: Supplied

More than 2,000 refugees who had sought asylum in Australia remain on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and Nauru, and the policy has been mired in allegations of abuse and mental health issues.

In a new report, the NGO says the policy offshore detention has come under sustained criticism at a time when Australia is trying to push itself as a global human rights leader.

Human Rights Watch's Australia director, Elaine Pearson, said the country needed to address the shortcomings of its refugee policy first.

"Australia is running for a seat for the [United Nations] Human Rights Council in 2018 and we think Australia will have a better chance of winning that seat if it's seen to be addressing the shortcomings in its own human rights record. And certainly we've identified the major stains on Australia's reputation are really with the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers."

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