Amnesty said the asylum policy was exacting “an appalling human cost, with children being kept behind razor wire for many months”.
It called for urgent changes to the mandatory detention policy that go beyond measures announced by Prime Minister John Howard earlier this month to release children and their families from detention and allow long-term detainees to live in the community.
The Amnesty report said the recent changes were a positive step towards a more human policy on asylum seekers but did not go far enough.
“They still leave Australia in clear breach of its international human rights obligations in the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees,” it said.
“People seeking asylum in Australia from human rights abuses in other countries are currently met with a system that further violates their human rights. These violations include administrative detention for a prolonged and potentially indefinite period of time,” the report said.
Amnesty welcomed recent changes to soften migration laws but said they still left Australia in clear breach of its international human rights obligations.
The report recommended that the government establish a formal independent review process to assess the need for detention, a maximum time for detention and to ensure detainees have access to courts.
Amnesty’s national president, Russell Thurgood, told ABC radio that those who’ve fled a country because of human rights abuses, should not have their rights further violated when they seek asylum.
“That deprivation of freedom causes a lot of stress, a lot of frustration which not only leads to a clear breach of human rights obligations but it leads to mental health issues and the psychological damage that is being caused by the indefinite nature of detention is irrefutable,” said Mr Thurgood.