'Time for some humanity': Helen Clark calls for action on Manus Island

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has weighed in on the deteriorating situation of asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Ms Clark, who was in charge of the United Nations Development Programme for eight years, responded to an article in the New York Times, highlighting the plight of the asylum seekers by tweeting:

"Reading this nytimes article will give background to why both NZ  National- & Labour-led governments offered to help resettlement. Many of those on Manus are recognised as refugees by UN. That gives them rights - among other things to protection. Time for some humanity"

The article states:

"Veteran United Nations officials said this month they had never seen a wealthy democracy [Australia] go to such extremes to punish asylum seekers and push them away.

"Papua New Guinea officials and local leaders, enraged at how the camp's closure was handled, have demanded to know why Australia is not doing more to help the men.

"Instead, Australia is cutting services  reducing caseworkers and no longer providing medication, officials said, even though approximately 8 in 10 of the men suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and other issues largely caused by detention."

The plight of the refuges has seen tensions ramp up between the new Jacinda Ardern-led Government and Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull's government has repeatedly declined New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru, saying he would first pursue a deal with the United States to resettle them, with more than 1000 being held.

In 2001, Helen Clark's government accepted 133 Afghan asylum seekers from the Norwegian container ship Tampa, which Ms Clark described as one of her proudest moments as Prime Minister.

The humanitarian crisis happened in the Indian Ocean, when Australia refused to accept the Tampa asylum seekers, who were plucked from a sinking fishing boat by the Tampa's Norwegian crew.

The standoff sparked a diplomatic row between Australia and Norway, and focused international attention on the plight of the asylum seekers.