The UN's Refugee Agency is calling for legal principles and compassion to be returned to the debate, while churches, human rights groups and lawyers have slammed both sides of politics, saying the treatment of asylum seekers and policy debate have fallen to a new low.
The Government and Opposition have also been criticised for the way in which they have dealt with recommendations from an expert panel on asylum seekers.
Earlier this week, the Federal Government announced it would release thousands of asylum seekers into the community on bridging visas, but they would not be allowed to work or have access to family reunions.
Meanwhile, the Opposition announced that a future Coalition government would slash Australia's refugee intake and force those on bridging visas to work for welfare benefits.
Today the Coalition also announced it would introduce a bill to reinstate temporary protection visas (TPVs) in the last week of Parliament.
TPVs force asylum seekers to reapply for refugee status after several years, in case conditions in their home country have changed.
The policy was introduced by the Howard government and abolished in 2008 by Labor.
The Coalition's Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says Labor must end its opposition to the policy.
"Temporary protection visas, as Tony [Abbott] has said, are just that - they're temporary," he said.
"They're not a permanent bridge to permanent residency, as the Government's bridging visa proposal is. At the end of a term of a temporary protection visa, a person's refugee status is reassessed."
The UN's Refugee Agency says it is deeply troubled by the shift towards policies of deterrence - and they are not alone.
Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning is calling it the "race to the bottom" on asylum policy.
"The Pacific Solution mark two, which is effectively very similar to the Pacific Solution mark one, has clearly not worked," he said.
"It's not working - it hasn't stopped the boats, it hasn't stopped people coming.
"Our politicians need to get their heads around... [working] with our neighbours to enable those countries to provide rights for people to access work, education and health whilst they wait for their refugee status to be determined."
'Corrosion of human values'
Earlier this year, an expert panel led by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston made recommendations to the Government on the asylum seeker issue.
But Mr Glendenning says both sides of politics are cherry-picking those recommendations.
"We strongly support the recommendations of the Houston panel to increase people's access to employment, to health and for their children to be educated in countries in the region like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan," he said.
"We know when that happens that people don't feel the need or are compelled to jump into a boat or fall into the arms of people smugglers.
"And yet the Government seems to be emphasising those things which are punitive, and in terms of the Opposition, that's all they seem to be interested in to do is to punish people even further."
Barrister Greg Barns is a former political adviser and now spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
He says Australian politicians have "trashed the rule of law" in relation to the asylum seeker issue.
"I met with the Houston panel - decent people - and if I were the Houston panel, I would be kicking and screaming and making a very loud noise," he said.
"I think it's time that they did because they certainly had a commitment to decency and fairness in the system.
"What has happened is that the Government has taken the worst aspects of the Houston panel and hasn't integrated them with the better aspects so that you're left with a situation where you've got Nauru, Manus Island, and a corrosion of the rule of law in this country and a corrosion of human values."
Talks break down
Meanwhile, refugee advocates say asylum seekers on Nauru have walked out of a meeting with Nauru's foreign minister, rejecting an offer to begin entry interviews.
The Refugee Action Coalition says detainees were offered basic interviews straight away, but were told they could not be given full interviews until next year.
They walked out of the meeting, and around 30 asylum seekers have returned to their hunger strike, refusing food and water.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul says the men viewed the offer on the table as meaningless.
"They're not offering interviews for any kind of assessment of their protection claims," he said.
"It's worse than nothing. It's a piece of polictical theatre to make it look like something was happening."
The Immigration Department has confirmed that a number of detainees are on hunger strike.
A spokeswoman says they are being monitored closely.