A dozen mothers in an asylum-seeker camp have reportedly attempted suicide so their children can be settled in Australia, piling pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said yesterday he would not be morally blackmailed.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the women tried to kill themselves this week after being told they would be taken from a detention centre on Christmas Island to Papua New Guinea or Nauru.
Any boatpeople who arrived in Australia after July 19, 2013 cannot be resettled in the country, regardless of whether they are eventually judged to be genuine refugees.
They are instead sent to detention facilities or for resettlement on islands in the Pacific.
The Australian Human Rights Commission told AFP it was aware of "seven women who have either attempted suicide, threatened suicide or self-harmed on Christmas Island" in the last two days.
"In recent weeks we are aware of 13 asylum-seekers who fall into those categories," a spokeswoman added.
The damaging claims come as Australia faces growing pressure over its controversial immigration policies, with High Court action under way over the fate of 153 Sri Lankans being held in custody on the high seas.
They are currently detained on a Customs boat as lawyers argue that any transfer back to Colombo would be illegal, with concerns about the way they were screened.