About 10 asylum seekers are being held at Mt Eden and Waikeria remand prisons and one has been behind bars since March last year.

Immigration New Zealand said all asylum seekers in remand were there because of concerns they posed a potential security risk. It said the majority of asylum seekers were not detained in prisons.

However, Amnesty said they had committed no criminal acts in New Zealand. In some cases they had been assaulted by other prisoners.

Auckland lawyer Deborah Manning said she had represented most of the asylum seekers who had been detained in Mt Eden prison.

Her clients were vulnerable and it was no place for them, she said.

”Clients come to New Zealand full of hope, feeling as though they’ve finally found a safe place and they’re put into Mt Eden, which is frankly a hell hole...

”As time goes by, they become more and more desperate. Some become as desperate as you can get and I even had a client try and take their own life,” she said.

The government needed to look at alternatives to Mt Eden prison such as electronic monitoring or hostels, Ms Manning said
— Radion NZ, 26 February 2016