The Topside asylum seeker processing facility in Nauru.

The Topside asylum seeker processing facility in Nauru. Photo: Joe Armao

Asylum seekers have staged the second breakout at an offshore processing centre in less than a week.

On Monday morning three asylum seekers, believed to be Iranians, breached the perimeter fence at the centre on Nauru before breaking free. They were caught and returned to the camp and a department of immigration spokeswoman said an investigation would be conducted into the incident.

''The centre is calm,'' the spokeswoman said.

It follows a breakout at the Manus Island processing centre on Thursday night; the second at the camp since it opened in November.

Reports from asylum seekers within the camp suggested that about 40 men had jumped on the camp's fences, brandishing wooden sticks, before flattening a fence.

''Women were crying and they were worried about their children,'' the asylum seekers wrote. ''Families didn't feel safe at all. Police didn't do anything.''

The asylum seekers said the protesters stole gasoline from neighbours, and brought the fuel back to the processing centre, although guards for private security firm G4S – which runs the centre – managed to take the fuel from the protesters.

''Where are the security guards in this situation?'' the asylum seekers wrote. ''What will happen next? who is responsible for these things? Why families and children are in high danger?''

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) confirmed there had been a ''disturbance'' and an ''unauthorised absence'' from the centre on Thursday night, but said calm had been restored and the situation had been brought under control.

The spokeswoman said DIAC had asked G4S to investigate the disturbance, and would not comment on specific aspects of the incident until the investigation was complete.

Last month three men briefly escaped the camp and ran into the sea in apparent attempt at suicide or escape,  before G4S guards pulled them out.

The Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney said the latest escape attempt showed the spiralling hopelessness and frustration felt by people at the camps.

"We are calling on new Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor to shut these hellholes down," spokesman Nick Riemer said.

Meanwhile, Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young offered a brief show of unity over the weekend, both saying that the treatment of Senator Nick Xenophon at the hands of the Malaysian authorities showed that the government's ill-fated people swap was bad policy and Malaysia could not be relied upon to treat asylum seekers Australia sent there well.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, said he had rung his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman, to express his disappointment. Senator Carr said the Malaysian foreign minister took a ''strong objection'' to foreigners interfering in the country's election campaign.

Both men agreed their nations' relationship would not suffer as a result of the incident, he said.

– with Judith Ireland