Detainee told to eat maggot-filled food

An immigration detainee was served food containing maggots and told they couldn't get a replacement meal as they were "just on the vegetables".

An ombudsman's report into Australia's treatment of immigration detainees lashed the Department of Home Affairs and found the use of hotels as holding facilities made it much harder to guarantee basic human rights.

One detainee at Melbourne's Park Hotel - where tennis champion Novak Djokovic was held before he was deported last year - complained when they found maggots in their food but was effectively told to eat it anyway.

"It was clear there was insufficient appreciation of the significance of the contaminated food, and how important it is for people in detention to have confidence in the quality and safety of food provided," the ombudsman said.

"Staff advised us at the time of the incident, sourcing an alternative was not considered by staff because the maggots were 'just on the vegetables'."

The food was cooked by hotel staff, with no contingencies in place for contamination incidents.

The ombudsman made 18 recommendations, noting several had been made previously but ignored.

One such recommendation was keeping detainees in hotels for no longer than four weeks.

"Our visits to hotel (detention) have shown time and again (they) are not suitable to accommodate people in immigration detention for prolonged periods of time," the ombudsman said.

"It is difficult for these facilities to meet basic human rights standards for housing people in immigration detention, including suitable access to fresh air, exercise and other programs and activities."

The ombudsman also recommended reducing the number of people in detention, more appropriately using mechanical restraints and fine-tuning the complaints management system.

Australian Border Force, which manages the detention network, denied any food was contaminated and said detainees had nutritious and culturally-appropriate meals that met medical and dietary requirements.

"Independent investigations into the allegations determined the department complied with its (work health and safety) obligations and acted in accordance with the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code," the agency said.

"The ABF strongly refutes any suggestion of mouldy bread or food with maggots being provided to detainees."