Tony Abbott Not Giving In to 'Moral Blackmail' Despite Asylum Seeker Suicide Attempts

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Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia wait to enter a magistrate's court in Galle
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. REUTERS/Stringer

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared his government will not be subjected to "moral blackmail" after reports of attempted suicide by asylum seekers in Christmas Island. According to a Fairfax report, dozens of refugee mothers have tried to commit suicide because they think their children have a better luck in going to Australia without them.

Mr Abbott told media that the suicide attempts were "harrowing" but his government will not change its policy in processing asylum seekers. He said refugees who arrive by boat will not be given permanent residency.

The prime minister said no Australian government should give in to the demands of refugees including threatening their own lives. Mr Abbott believes no "thinking Australian" would want the government to be subjected to moral blackmail. He said government policy will not be driven by people who hold it "over a moral barrel."

According to reports, the refugee mothers began weeping when they were told they will be sent to Australian-run detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. The mothers had allegedly said they would rather die.

Representing the asylum seekers, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said they are concerned about the refugee families in Christmas Island and their attempts to commit suicide.

In reaction to Mr Abbott's comments, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it is not enough for the government to keep its hands clean on the issue of human safety. Mr Shorten said the prime minister needs to enumerate the safeguards in place to ensure people are being treated with some degree of humanity and decency.

Meanwhile, reports said Mr Abbott had refused to tell the public where a group of Sri Lankan asylum seekers are being held by Australian authorities. He did not confirm reports about sending them back to Sri Lanka.

On July 8, the government had promised the High Court to provide three days notice before returning the group of refugees. In the court hearing, the Australian government had confirmed for the first time the existence of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka after days of speculation as to their whereabouts.

High Court justice Susan Crennan issued a temporary injunction which ordered the government to stop all transfers. Reports said the hearing has no impact on the 41 refugees previously sent back to Sri Lanka. 

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