Mothers attempt suicide as conditions deteriorate on Christmas Island

July 11, 2014

The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on July 8.


Up to 10 mothers in the family camp have attempted suicide in the last two days on Christmas Island — some by hanging, some by drinking concoctions of liquids.

Scores of police and Serco officers have been stationed inside the family camp — almost one to a room — to try to maintain calm and prevent more suicide attempts.

One 25 year-old woman remains in the medical centre, with at least one deep cut requiring 16 stitches, after throwing herself from a container two days ago.

Tensions have been building in the family camp over recent weeks as many of the families have spent a year, in limbo, on Christmas Island and more and more children are becoming sick.

One anxious call from Christmas Island said that all the babies are sick: “They have fevers and coughs that do not get better. The phosphate is making them sick and they cough. They cannot get better while we are in this camp. There is no proper medical. The babies are given just ice and water.”

The suicide attempts came after a meeting between detainees and immigration officers late yesterday. Angry women desperately showed the immigration officers a glass of water, showing how dirty the water they were expected to drink was.

At the meeting, Immigration officers told the detainees that all the people on Christmas Island would be sent to Nauru or Manus Island.

Desperate mothers asked to be sent to Nauru to escape the conditions at Christmas Island but were told they must remain on Christmas Island until a court case in October resolves whether or not babies born in Australia are Australian citizens or can make their own protection claims.

Desperate callers from Christmas Island told the Refugee Action Coalition: “The officers try to intimidate us. They are threatening us. But we cannot watch our children suffer and get sick like this. Why must we stay on Christmas Island?”

The mothers have said that if one them has to die to get help for their children they will do that. “The officers cannot watch us all the time. They can put an officer in our room. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow — but if [we] must sacrifice for our children we will do it.”

Spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition Ian Rintoul said: “There is an urgent situation on Christmas Island. There have been more and more calls from Christmas Island over the past weeks. There is no reason for families to be kept on Christmas Island.

“But the government is wilfully blind to the health and welfare of the families that are in their care. Some asylum seekers have been sent to the mainland but they only act when it is too late; after too many suicide attempts or after the condition of sick kids becomes too desperate.”

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