Human rights groups have accused Australia of deliberately ignoring the alleged abuse of asylum seekers being held at a remote Pacific island detention facility in a bid to deter future refugees from trying to reach the country by boat.

In a scathing report released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said asylum seekers on the Pacific island nation of Nauru are routinely denied critical medical care, frequently attempt suicide and endure physical assaults by locals that go unpunished.

Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it "strongly refutes" many of the allegations in the report.

Australia refuses to accept any asylum seekers who attempt to reach its shores by boat. Instead, it pays Nauru and the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea to hold them.