SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said he was establishing a new monitoring team for centres holding asylum-seekers, including camps on remote Pacific islands, after a series of abuse allegations.
Under Australia's hardline immigration policies - designed to stop would-be refugees from risking their lives on people-smuggling boats - asylum-seekers face mandatory detention.
Hundreds are being held in detention centres on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and the small state of Nauru despite criticism that these camps, which have endured riots, are harsh.
Mr Morrison said the new team would operate independently of those running the centres, and advise the Department of Immigration on oversight of their management and performance.
"Service providers contracted to manage immigration detention do a good job in what can be challenging circumstances but it is important the government has the ability to independently ensure the integrity of service providers at detention centres," he said.
The team will monitor "the effectiveness of the high standards in place for detention service providers including, where necessary and appropriate, recommending action to deal with credible allegations of misconduct should they arise," he added.
The team will be able to undertake investigations and support inquiries into allegations or incidents in detention centres.
The announcement comes after the death of an Iranian man in riots at Manus Island in February. Another man had his throat cut, but survived.
Last month Australia ordered an inquiry into claims of sexual misconduct by staff at the camp in Nauru, including whether the reports were fabricated by aid workers.
"My department will address any gaps that may exist in the oversight of its service providers," Mr Morrison said.
Under Canberra's immigration policy, asylum-seekers who arrive on boats are denied resettlement in Australia and sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru, even if they are genuine refugees. Only one boatload of asylum-seekers has reached the Australian mainland since December, compared to almost daily arrivals previously under the Labor administration.
Australia has faced broad criticism from rights groups over its immigration policies, but has rejected allegations it does not take its duty of care to asylum-seekers seriously.
A United Nations anti-torture review hearing into Australia currently underway has reportedly been dominated by concerns about the treatment of asylum-seekers.