Nauru detention camp 'horrendous'

Last updated 11:52 19/12/2013

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The living conditions for children at the Nauru detention camp are "heart wrenching", an Australian politician says.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has just returned from a four-day trip to the Pacific nation, where she toured the Australian offshore detention facilities housing asylum seekers.

The camps, located in the middle of a phosphate mine, house single adult males and families separately in conditions Senator Hanson-Young described as "harsh".

There was no grass or shade at the facilities, or a space for children to play.

"They live 24/7 on gravel, housed in tents, where it is upwards 40 degrees," she told Sky News.

"They can't escape that."

Hanson-Young decried the fact that so close to Christmas, children in the centres had no toys or a school to attend and were confused about why they were being detained.

All detainees she encountered referred to the facilities as prisons, reflecting the "horrendous reality" of the offshore detention policy supported by the federal government and Labor.

"The reality is we are destroying the lives of these children," she said.

The United Nations refugee agency in November warned that asylum seekers being detained at Australia's offshore centres were being subjected to arbitrary, mandatory and indefinite detention in unsafe and inhumane conditions.

Officials inspected detention centres at Nauru and PNG's Manus Island in October, finding harsh conditions there failed to meet international standards.

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