PM Abbott, Cold-hearted *itch on Mothers’ Suicide and Self-harm in Christmas Island

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By Athena Yenko | July 9, 2014 2:51 PM EST

As a result of the government's decision to turn back a boat with 153 asylum seekers on board back in Sri Lanka, children as young as two years old were now in a limbo, mothers are attempting suicide and harming themselves. However, for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, these are just "moral blackmail" that shall not bend his spine over policy on asylum seekers.

REUTERS/Stringer
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014. The 41 asylum seekers handed over on Sunday appeared before a magistrate's court in the port city of Galle on Tuesday. Sri Lankan police had said they were to be charged with leaving the country illegally and any found guilty would face "rigorous imprisonment", raising fears about rights abuses.

Principal lawyer Jacob Varghese of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, representing the case of 72 babies of the asylum seekers, said that the mothers became hapless when they learned about the policy that they will never be welcomed in Australia since they arrived after July 19, 2013. The policy was ratified during Kevin Rudd's term.

"We are gravely concerned about the welfare of the families on Christmas Island. We have heard from our clients there that in the last day several women have attempted suicide or harmed themselves. They are in a state of utter despair. They are concerned about the health of their children," Varghese told Fairfax.

Varghese said that one mother tried to hang herself, while several others are cutting themselves with piece of broken glasses.

"Keeping children and families on Christmas Island is monstrous. It is bad enough that we keep children imprisoned. But there is no sensible reason that families cannot be detained on the mainland where they would have access to the medical and welfare services they require."

"A lot of the women are saying they want to kill themselves. We have urgent questions about what sort of psychiatric care they're getting. The detention itself is causing the psychiatric issues and the only answer is to take them out of that environment," Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said.

"Their thinking is that if the babies have been born in Australia, they cannot be sent anywhere else, including Manus Island or Nauru. It's a shocking conclusion to come to, but that's the state of helplessness in the centre at the moment," the president of the Christmas Island Shire Council, Gordon Thompson, said.

Yes, reports of mothers' attempting suicide and self-harm were "harrowing," however, Mr Abbott believes that the Australians who think logically would not want him surrendering to such moral blackmails.

"No Australian governments should be subjected to the spectacle of people saying 'unless you accept us, I am going to commit self harm. I don't believe any thinking Australian would want us to capitulate to moral blackmail. This is not going to be a government which has our policy driven by people who are attempting to hold us over a moral barrel - we won't be driven by that," Mr Abbott told Channel Nine on Wednesday.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Stringer / REUTERS/Stringer)
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014. The 41 asylum seekers handed over on Sunday appeared before a magistrate's court in the port city of Galle on Tuesday. Sri Lankan police had said they were to be charged with leaving the country illegally and any found guilty would face "rigorous imprisonment", raising fears about rights abuses.
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