The federal government breached the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees by sending children to Nauru, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has found.

The now-decommissioned regional processing centre on the island was "not an appropriate place" to send families with babies and young children, the AHRC's Richard Lancaster SC said in a report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

By "engaging in this practice", he wrote, the Commonwealth had breached the human rights of three Iranian families with children under six years old who had lodged complaints after being transferred to the South Pacific island nation five years ago, having arrived in Australia by boat. He called on the government to resettle all families, children and single women who had been sent to Nauru in Australia.

Mr Lancaster also recommended the government amend its policies on medical transfers "to ensure that people who need treatment that cannot be provided in a regional processing country are transferred promptly to Australia for treatment".

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