10 Jul 2014

Australia under fire for suicide watch response

5:52 pm on 10 July 2014

The Australian government is under fire for its response to reports that asylum-seekers on Australia's Christmas Island detention centre are on suicide watch.

128 women and 196 children are currently detained on the island, and the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, says almost ten mothers are on suicide watch.

The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, says the reports were harrowing, but says his government will not capitulate to 'moral blackmail'.

An Australian ethicist at the Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame, Matthew Beard, says the response goes against the Government's stated motivations.

"The callousness of that and the insenstivity of that holds true even if the reports prove to be false. To say shame on them for committing acts of self harm is really problematic considering the whole motivation for this policy was looking out for people so that they don't drown at sea. If we're geniunely concerned for the well being of these people then nothing should trouble us more than reports that people are committing acts of self-harm."

Australian ethicist Matthew Beard.