Australian Offshore Refugee Centres Are Rat-Infested, Extremely Hot, Cramped, Short On Water And Plagued By Insects

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The UNHCR, the United Nations body dealing with refugees, has released two reports, an independent window into conditions at the Nauru and Manus refugee centres.

And the picture isn’t good at the two centres where about 1,700 are being held after trying to reach Australia by boat.

The UNHCR says there’s been a sharp deterioration this year in the overall quality of protection and support for asylum seekers and refugees.

The UNHCR says it’s “deeply troubled” the refugee centres do not provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention.

It found only one refugee claim has been processed in the past 14 months.

Asylum seekers told UNHCR delegations about the conditions at:


  • very cramped and hot conditions with no privacy
  • presence of rats (which the UNHCR team witnessed first-hand)
  • the prevalence of family break-ups as a result of recriminations in relation to finding themselves in Nauru rather than Australia, with the men taking the blame for the transfers
  • insufficient water
  • insufficient access to telephones and internet

MANUS Island, Papua New Guinea

  • very cramped conditions and the need for privacy
  • hygiene issues and lack of culturally appropriate facilities in the ablution blocks
  • extreme heat and humidity
  • health concerns caused by insects and parasites (particularly malaria from mosquitos)
  • hygiene issues in relation to the food served

In Geneva, UNHCR’s Director of International Protection, Volker Türk, said people are being held in mandatory, arbitrary detention.

“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.”

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