Asylum seekers have been sexually abused and tortured inside Australia's processing centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, a former security guard at the facility claims.

Former head of occupational health and safety at the centre, Rod St George, claims acts of self-harm and attempted suicide were occurring "almost daily" on Manus Island.

"I've never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless and so hopeless before," he told SBS's Dateline program on Tuesday.

"In Australia, the facility couldn't even serve as a dog kennel.

"The owners would be jailed."

Mr St George, who is a former prison guard, said up to half a dozen young men were assaulted and sexually abused.

After reporting the cases of abuse, the men were told to return to their tents.

"There was nothing that could be done for these young men who were considered vulnerable, which in many cases is just a euphemism for men who are being raped," he said.

"They had to stay where they were."

Detainees, described by Mr St George as "heavies", forced fellow asylum seekers on the facility to sow their lips together.

One man had his eardrum perforated when he had solvent poured into his ear, Mr St George said.

He was particularly critical of immigration department officials for their handling of cases of alleged abuse.

"I've worked with some of the worst criminals Australia has and even they have a clearer sense of decency than what I witnessed there," Mr St George said.

The immigration department says there have been no reported allegations of rape at the facility.

"The department is unaware of the claims made by the SBS report of unreported acts of self-harm, suicide attempts or incidents of rape at the centre," a department spokeswoman told AAP.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke says he asked SBS to be put in contact with Mr St George when he was interviewed about the story last week.

"To my shock, the journalist has still not made that person available to me," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"What was put to me during that interview was deeply serious (and) I have wanted to act on it."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday announced asylum seekers trying to enter Australia by boat will be sent to PNG and may be settled there if found to be genuine refugees.

Four boats with 299 passengers on board have arrived since Friday's announcement.

All of those people will eventually be sent to Manus Island for processing and possible resettlement.

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