Manus Island detention centre expansion cops criticism

THE United Nations Human Rights Commission has raised serious questions over safeguards for refugees being sent to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's tough new asylum-seeker solution.

Criticism from the UNHRC and Law Council of Australia comes as the Federal Government prepares to expand its controversial detention centre on Manus Island.

Just a week after Mr Rudd announced the deal - to send all asylum-seekers arriving by boat to PNG - more than 500 refugees have arrived at Christmas Island.

All those who arrived after the deal will be sent to Manus Island where the government is reportedly preparing to expand the centre to cope with the continued demand.

But the deal has been criticised by the United Nation's Human Rights Commission and the Law Council of Australia, which have both raised legal and moral questions about the new arrangements.

A statement from the UNHCR said the international agency was troubled by the "absence of adequate protection standards and safeguards" for refugees in PNG.

It also said the deal raised "serious, and so far unanswered, protection questions", including concerns about the physical and psychological effects of holding asylum-seekers at the offshore centre.

"These include a lack of national capacity and expertise in processing, and poor physical conditions within open-ended, mandatory and arbitrary detention settings," the statement reads.

"This can be harmful to the physical and psycho-social well-being of transferees, particularly families and children."

The Law Council also questioned a lack of clarity around the detail of the deal, and whether the agreement would ensure refugees' human rights would be guaranteed.

Council president Michael Colbran QC was concerned the PNG system lacked safeguards to ensure asylum-seekers were given access to justice and procedural fairness.

He said there appeared to be no appeal mechanism for refugees whose claims were refused, despite recommendations for such policies by the government's Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers.

Mr Colbran said the council was now seeking urgent advice from Mr Rudd and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on how the deal actually complied with the rule of law.

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