Up to a dozen asylum-seeking women held on Christmas Island have attempted suicide, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The women, all mothers, after being told they would be sent to Nauru and Manus Island believed that their children would have a better chance of making it to Australia without them.
President of the Christmas Island Shire Council, Gordon Thompson, said:
"Their thinking is that if the babies have been born in Australia, they cannot be sent anywhere else, including Manus Island or Nauru,"
“The women believe that if they sacrifice themselves the children will grow up to learn they did the best thing for them, to give them the chance to live in Australia,”
"They are saying, 'the babies have better chance at life if I am dead'."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded to the reports, in an interview saying that the self-harm amounted to moral blackmail and that asylum seeker conditions would be adequate in Nauru. He further said:
"Now really and truly, no Australian government should be subjected to the spectacle of people saying, unless you accept us I am going to commit self harm."
"And I don't believe any Australian, any thinking Australian would want us to capitulate to moral blackmail."
The reports come just days before Australian authorities will decide whether or not to deport 153, mostly Tamil, asylum seekers intercepted by Australian patrol boats.
Read more on the Guardian.