Several hundred asylum seekers on Nauru have just ended a 12 day hunger strike but reportedly six people continue to refuse food including an Iranian man who hasn't eaten for more than a month.
The UN High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, says the hunger strikes are an alarming indication that conditions on Nauru are unbearable.
Ms Pillay says she's appealed to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard to ensure that there are human rights protections on Nauru.
Presenter:George Roberts, Indonesia Correspondent
Speaker:Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
PILAY: I obviously appreciate the Prime Minister's goal to end people smuggling, but feel that the way to go about it is seriously placing at risk the human rights of people, such as those being held in Nauru. I'm very alarmed to hear that they are on hunger strike, that I think is an indication of the unbearable conditions under which they've been held, the uncertainty of their future.
I'm afraid that this new scheme of having them appraised on offshore islands is just going to end up in another regime of indefinite detention, which is what we objected to all along about this scheme.
ROBERTS: What does this say about Australia? Is this a blight on Australia's record if it goes down this path?
PILAY: It would be a blight on Australia's good human rights record if it doesn't respect the rights of asylum seekers under the Convention to which it is a part.
ROBERTS: Is that effectively saying that Australia's broken its obligations under the Convention?
PILAY: No, there's still a chance for Australia to ensure that protections have to be in place and this was my personal opinion to Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, when I last met her, at least ensure that protections are in place and if that is done, you wouldn't have people going on hunger strike.
ROBERTS. So you suspect that the protections aren't adequately in place?
PILAY: I suspect that and I fear that this is another road to indefinite detention. Detention of asylum seekers should be the last resort, not the first, definitely not indefinite.
ROBERTS: So what should Australia do?
PILAY: Obviously, Australia has an obligation to its own citizens, to protect them from unwanted or excessive migration. On the otherhand, it seems to handle migrants coming from Europe and so on who land by plane, they not held in detention, they provided, they could stay in homes and so on, while they are being processed. They have to devise a method of processing individuals, asylum claims expeditiously, that's also under the Convention. I'm sure that all Australians would like their government to handle the matter in a humanitarian way.