Asylum seekers detained in "prison-like" conditions at Australia’s offshore detention centre on the Pacific Island nation of Nauru should have improved medical treatment options and potentially be settled in New Zealand, an Australian government committee has recommended.
Detainees had access to "substandard health facilities" and suffered severe mental illnesses, the committee's report, released on Friday afternoon, stated.
The committee, which was made up of six parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, began by stating that the Australian government clearly had a "duty of care" to asylum seekers in its offshore detention facilities.
"The secrecy surrounding regional processing centre [RPC] operations must cease. Refugees and asylum seekers are highly vulnerable, and this vulnerability is exacerbated where they are housed in distant and remote locations."
The committee recommended that the government increase Australia's refugee intake, give "serious consideration" to resettlement options in New Zealand, and commission an external review of its medical transfer procedures in offshore processing centres.
There were 134 incidents of self harm and 75 instances of the use of force against asylum seekers from July 2014 to July 2015.
"The committee heard allegations of unprofessional conduct by some members of RPC staff, including conduct designed to deliberately antagonise and taunt asylum seekers and refugees," the report read.
But not all six parliamentarians on the committee agreed.
The Coalition's Ian Macdonald and David Fawcett disputed the contents of the report and argued against many of the recommendations. The inquiry, they wrote, was a "politically motivated public relations stunt" designed to "tarnish the success of the Coalition's strong border protection policies".
"The report is highly speculative and relies consistently on anecdotal evidence, second and third hand reports, and on unsupported allegations that are presented as fact," their dissenting statement read.
The non-dissenting committee members were the ALP's Louise Pratt, Patrick Dodson and Murray Watt and Greens senator Nick McKim.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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