Australia Denies Reports of Suicide as Desperate Refugee Women Plea for Baby Adoption
By Reissa Su | July 10, 2014 5:21 PM EST
Pregnant asylum seekers in Christmas Island pleaded with doctors to let their children be adopted by Australian families. According to reports, the pleas for adoption happened four months ago as asylum seeker women began to worry for the future of their children.
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.
In March, child psychiatrist Sarah Mares visited the detention centre and discovered pregnant women and mothers had high levels of extreme depression and anxiety. They told Mares that they would rather die than not be cleared during processing in Christmas Island.
Dr Mares, who has 30 years of experience in child psychiatry, said the women in the detention centre felt they cannot protect or care for their children. She said many of the woman in Christmas Island were refugees from countries with where there is considerable violence against women.
Mares said the asylum seeker women were concerned about the health of their children who developed skin infections, ringworm and weeping sores. When she spoke to the pregnant women, they raised the question of whether their babies can have a better life if they can be adopted by Australian families. They were concerned they will end up in the Nauru facility.
Principal lawyer at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Jacob Varghese said the adoption of babies would be a "legal minefield" since children who were born to asylum seekers are still considered by Australian government as "unauthorised maritime arrivals."
It was previously reported that up to 12 women had attempted to commit suicide because they think their children will have a better chance of reaching Australia if they were dead. However, the Immigration Department denied the claims and said the reports "are not correct."
It was reported that Fairfax Media had obtained a copy of an official document with information that seven asylum seekers had threatened to commit suicide with four individuals "actually self-harmed." One woman had attempted suicide.
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has denied claims that Sri Lankan asylum seekers were mistreated. He said the Australian government did not break international laws when it returned 41 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka despite the UN criticism.
To contact the editor, e-mail: