A human rights lawyer says the United Nations' latest advice to Australia about Nauru and Manus Island can be considered criticism.
A UN committee reviewing compliance with the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said it was alarmed by Australia's punitive approach towards asylum seekers by detaining them offshore.
The UN had previously raised similar concerns, but Amy Frew from the Human Rights Law Centre said the latest recommendations carried weight.
"What's important to keep in mind in these types of, what I think you can categorise as censures, is that Australia, we want to be a part of the UN. At the moment we're trying to be a member of the Human Rights Council and that will be decided by a vote in October. So it's increasingly more important that Australia does look to be compliant with the values that we signed up to."
She said while the UN lacked mechanisms of enforcement, complaints about Australia's off shore detention regime have been lodged with the International Criminal Court.