Nauru detainees: 'What they most need is some hope'

9:24 pm on 18 October 2016

New Zealand needs to step up and help the hundreds of people detained in Australia's camps on Nauru, Amnesty International says.

A small group of Muslim refugees pray at sunset while other refugees participate in a football match at a camp for the asylum seekers on Nauru, 20 September 2001. The first of hundreds of mainly Afghan refugees arrived on the island 19 September from the Australian troopship Manoora.

A small group of Muslim refugees pray at sunset while other refugees participate in a football match at a camp for the asylum seekers on Nauru. Photo: AFP

The human rights organisation has issued a report which says the hundreds of people - including 55 children - being held there continue to face horrific sexual and physical abuses, while mental health issues are worsening.

Amnesty New Zealand executive director Grant Bayldon said Australia seemed unlikely to budge, so other nations such as New Zealand needed to act.

"What they most need is some hope. Hope that there is some end to what's effectively detention there on Nauru, and hope that they aren't forgotten.

"And that's really what we're trying to do. We're working very hard on the Australian government, but also on other governments."

New Zealand has offered to take 150 of the asylum seekers, but Australia said it must deal directly with Nauru, and the offer has stalled.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said New Zealand should take a stronger stance.

"John Key should cause international embarrassment to Australia if indeed they haven't already been embarrassed enough.

"In an age of world-wide humanitarian crises, one that is on our doorstep, then we need to be applying a bit of a stiff arm on it and say 'we can help'."

Prime Minister John Key said the offer to take asylum seekers - made in 2013 - was still on the table.