Suicide threats moral blackmail, says Abbott

Tony Abbott says he will not bow to "moral blackmail" after claims that mothers were threatening suicide on Christmas Island in the hope their children would have a better chance of being allowed into Australia.

The warning comes as the Federal Government considers what to do with 153 asylum seekers intercepted far off the WA coast - with suggestions the group could be ferried directly to Nauru or even handed over to the Indian Government.

It has been claimed 10 women have attempted suicide in detention centres on Christmas Island, reportedly in the belief their babies and young children would be given asylum.

The Prime Minister said if the reports of suicide were true, it was a "harrowing tale", but that he was committed to stopping the flow of asylum boats.

"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," Mr Abbott said.

"We won't be driven by that."

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he had been advised that reports of attempted suicides at Christmas Island were incorrect but refused to give details of what had happened at the detention centre.

Lawyers for the 153 asylum seekers intercepted 12 days ago won a High Court injunction on Monday to stop the Government handing them to the Sri Lankan navy.

Their fate remains unclear, with the Government refusing to say whether they will be held at sea until the case is heard in three weeks time.

Though the group are said to be Tamils from Sri Lanka, their boat may have left for Australia from southern India.

It has been suggested that because the Government is barred from handing the group over to Sri Lanka, Customs may attempt to deport the group to India.

But Indian High Commissioner Biren Nanda told _The West Australian _ the Australian Government had not approached India about the group.

Government figures have refused to discuss suggestions the group could be sent direct to the Australian-funded detention camp on Nauru.

Mr Morrison also rejected asylum seeker claims of mistreatment by an Australian official before they were handed to the Sri Lankan navy last month. Mr Morrison, who was in Sri Lanka for the commissioning of two Australian-donated patrol boats, reacted angrily to claims an asylum seeker had been beaten.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

More from The West