Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told Today that he won’t give into “moral blackmail”, after up to a dozen asylum seeker mothers on Christmas Island reportedly attempted suicide.
And here’s why: by calling these acts of human desperation “moral blackmail”, Tony Abbott has once again painted asylum seekers as the bad guys. As people who follow a different moral code. As people who are different to you and I. As ‘queue-jumpers’. As law breakers. As ‘illegals’.
Last night, Fairfax media reported that almost a dozen mothers in detention on Christmas Island have tried to commit suicide, after deciding that their babies – many of whom were born in detention – would have a better chance of being resettled in Australia if their parents were no longer living.
President of the Christmas Island Shire Council, Gordon Thompson told Fairfax, “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 mothers were told this week that they would be sent to Nauru and Manus Island detention facilities to await further processing, and became inconsolable.
Jacob Varghese, a lawyer at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers — who is representing 72 asylum seeker babies — told Fairfax, “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.”
This morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledged that while the reports of detainees’ suicide attempts were “harrowing”, his Government would not give into this kind of “moral blackmail”.
“No Australian Government should be subjected to the spectacle of people saying ‘unless you accept us, I am going to commit self-harm’,” the Prime Minister said.
”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.”