Vigils are being held outside the offices of politicians including the prime minister and opposition leader to mark the fifth anniversary of offshore processing.
“We remind politicians from both old parties that these five years has condemned 12 people to early death through violence, medical neglect and despair,” refugee support advocate Pamela Curr said in a statement.
The Refugee Council says more than 3000 children and adults have endured “enormous mental and physical harm”, yet the government continues to hail the policy as a success.
Other countries are seeking to mirror the policy as refugee numbers rise around the world.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters earlier this week the government restored control over Australia’s borders, after Labor allowed 50,000 unauthorised arrivals and at least 1200 people died on dangerous sea voyages.
“The bottom line is we have got our immigration system working exclusively for Australia – the Australian government controls our borders, once again, and so it’s going very well,” he said.
Labor’s Mark Butler said the coalition had made the processing centres into “centres of indefinite detention”, rather than temporary residences while resettlement places were sought.
Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said there were children born in offshore detention who had “spent their whole lives in exile” and it was time to let those remaining in the system come to Australia.
“Labor locked them up, and the Liberals threw away the key.”
When Kevin Rudd seized back the prime ministership in mid-2013 he toughened the Labor party’s stance on “stopping the boats”, to counter then-opposition leader Tony Abbott’s mantra.
On July 19 of that year the prime minister announced Australia had entered into an arrangement with Papua New Guinea to have all boat arrivals to be transferred there for processing and subsequent settlement in PNG or a participating regional country.
He later struck another deal with the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru.