Pregnant from being raped in camp, Somali refugee is denied medical care by Australia

Refugees in Australia

It's an absolute horror story. On Friday evening the Australian government chartered a plane and sent a raped, pregnant 23-year-old refugee woman from Somalia back to a concentration camp in the island nation of Nauru, refusing her medical care in Australia. She had come to Australia seeking safety, but instead the government sent her to Nauru, where 14 weeks ago she was raped, resulting in pregnancy. Abortion is illegal on Nauru, so she begged to come to Australia to receive care, including a termination of the pregnancy. Last week the government responded to enormous public outcry on her behalf and brought her to Australia for medical treatment. But once there, she was denied access to a counsellor to talk her through the procedure.


Instead, she was flown in secret back to Nauru, avoiding legal action on her behalf; still pregnant, and without having been given the medical treatment she needs.  


For the young woman this is abuse heaped upon abuse – rather than giving her basic human respect, Australia has turned her away.

Pro-refugee activists are trying to generate an enormous uproar to show the new right-of-centre Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, his government can't get away with this.

They’re working with the woman’s lawyers, who reveal that when she came to Australia from the island prison she was weak, sick and traumatised. She had received no care on Nauru after the violent assault, and had lost 10kg. She was in desperate need of appropriate medical attention, including counselling. Just days after arriving in Australia, she was flown back to Nauru, despite her desperate plea not to be returned.


"I cannot go back to where this happened to me; I cannot go to where I was raped. What happened to me there [in Nauru] is what caused me to run away from Somalia. What happened to me in Somalia is what happened to me there [in Nauru]"

The woman’s story is a personal emergency. It's also yet another outrage in a long line of abuses committed by Australian governments towards refugees and people seeking asylum.

Other references
'Australia secretly flies pregnant refugee out of country before hearing', , Guardian Australia, 16 October 2015
'Refugee raped on Nauru begs Malcolm Turnbull to let her come to Australia for an abortion', Sydney Morning Herald, 7 October 2015
'Asylum seeker that claims she was raped in Nauru returned to the island',, 17 October 2015
'Pregnant Somali asylum seeker returned to detention, advocates say', ABC News, 16 October 2015


Yet another inquiry into Australia’s offshore “regional processing centres” (increasingly being called concentration camps by activists), this time Nauru, has found that:

  • the conditions are “not adequate, appropriate or safe for the asylum seekers detained there”
  • the running cost is “extraordinary”
  • it is “not well run, nor are the operators properly accountable to the Commonwealth”
  • the average time for processing claims (402 days) is damaging the wellbeing of asylum seekers
  • this is not safe places for detainees, especially for women and children.

More specifically, activists believe it is unacceptable that:

  • The Australian government is planning to spend $8.3 billion over four years for the purpose of detaining asylum seekers offshore
  • The cost of detaining an individual on Nauru is $400,000/year
  • The average refugee status processing time is 402 days
  • 725 complaints of mistreatment of asylum seekers were reported in a 14 month period
  • There were 253 incidents of self-harm, plus:
  • 45 allegations of child abuse and sexual assault since 2012
  • 15 cases of sexual assault or rape
  • 1 death on Nauru 
  • 2 deaths on Manus Island - with no justice for the murder of Reza Berati.

Australia is a rich country wasting billions of dollars to offload its human rights obligations to poorer nations that don’t have equivalent resources or values. It’s time to bring these asylum seekers back to the mainland and provide them with the chance for a healthy and safe future in Australia.

Escalating wars and conflicts have produced a global refugee crisis. At current refugee camp resettlement rates, the UNHCR “queue” – if no more people were to join it – is estimated to be 117 years long.

While the Canberra government has announced an increase in its refugee quota, Australia can do more. Australia currently ranks 67th out of 161 countries for refugees per capita of population and, even with an additional 12,000 places, its refugee intake still remains low by comparison.

Activists also call on the government to stop its planned bombing raids in Syria. 

According to Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs: "We know that [bombing campaigns] in fact kill far more civilians than they do targets, they are extremely dangerous and they do lead to civilians panicking and leaving their homes, which creates another round of refugees.”

Australia’s our national anthem states: "For those who've come across the seas, We've boundless plains to share, With courage let us all combine, To advance Australia fair."

Demands to the government:


Australia must enact fairer, more compassionate treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. A petition calls for the following immediate policy changes, to allow asylum seekers and refugees the chance for a safer future in Australia:

1. Closure of the Manus Island and Nauru Regional Processing Centres and enactment of a faster and more humane system of housing asylum seekers and processing their refugee status claims on the mainland.
2. Authorisation of genuine refugees, currently in offshore detention centres, to be permanently settled in Australia.
3. While we commend the Government for increasing the refugee intake from Syria by 12,000, we ask that Australia’s refugee quota be increased by a further 10,000.
4. We call on the Australian Government to cease involvement in bombing Syria, as bombing may lead to more destruction, suffering and refugees.




Turnbull claims that the Somali woman was returned to Nauru because she changed her mind about having the abortion. 


The Greens spokesperson on refugees, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the case left her speechless. "This is just horrific. Playing with the life of this young woman to send a message to others," she said.


"[Immigration minister] Peter Dutton is clearly wanting to send a message to other women — there's a number of pregnant women on the island — that they won't be brought to Australia under any circumstances."


After closely watching Australian refugee policy for the past 10 years inside and from outside the country, during which I learned that a majority of Australians approve of the inhumane treatment both major political parties espouse, I venture to say that appeals to Turnbull will achieve nothing and that the harsh actions of the previous prime minister, Tony Abbott, whom Turnbull overthrew in an inner-party coup, will continue.

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The Somalian refugee at the ­centre of a controversy over her rape claims and failed Australian abortion bid has revealed she does still want an abortion but not in Australia.


The Australian found Abyan (not her real name) in a cramped room just across from the beach in one of the many clumps of makeshift refugee accommodation dotted around Nauru.

“Yes, I still want an abortion,” she said, agitated and distressed by the controversy her case has provoked.

“But I don’t want Australia, I want to go to another country.”

Nauru is a deeply Christian ­nation where the law does not permit abortions. Abyan was flown to Australia last week and then returned to Nauru after, the government claims, she declined to have the termination.

Her future is now unclear. Another possible option for a termination is Papua New Guinea but there is no indication that any ­arrangements or formal requests have been made.

Australian Border Force officials denied Labor senator Nova Peris access to Christmas Island detention centre, despite the facility being in her electorate.

Peris sought access to the centre on 8 October, when she was already on the island, but was denied. She had applied via the centre’s management company, Serco, before arriving on the island, and had been given the green light from them.

The timing of the senator’s visit coincided with a visit to the centre by the immigration minister, Peter Dutton.

“It is a significant trip to get there and the Australian public have been denied the opportunity for an elected representative to observe a taxpayer-funded facility, and on a matter of national importance,” she said.

President of Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs: “The secrecy with which we conduct these detention centres and what goes on in them and of course in our own detention centres in Australia, that is really a core problem and why we really need some form of independent monitoring.”

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The immigration minister claims the Somali refugee was whisked out of Australia to foil a game of legal trickery. But the story doesn’t stack up.


The minister suggests that Abyan’s case may simply be another instance where lawyers acting for refugees brought to Australia for medical treatment bring injunctions preventing their clients’ return to Nauru. The minister says this has happened on 240 occasions. If this is so it represents a soft underbelly of “stop the boats” and would have the government on red alert. However, is it true? There may well have been 240 instances of applications for interim injunctions, but he produced no evidence all those injunctions against removal from Australia lasted longer than the required medical treatment, or that they turned into final orders of the court.


There’s another aspect to this. Why would there be so many medical trips to Australia by refugees and asylum seekers held on Nauru? The obvious conclusion is that we are shamefully incarcerating people on an island without adequate medical facilities or resources as part of a policy of deterrence. The suggestion that Abyan was removed from Australia peremptorily and for political purposes is also reinforced by the timing of the manoeuvre.


Lawyer Newhouse sent an email on Friday at 11.58am to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection requesting to meet his client and that she not be removed from the country. One and a half hours later, Abyan was on a charter plane out of here. The consequence was that the application for an interim injunction went nowhere and the minister had foiled what he publicly portrayed as legal trickery. He claimed he was protecting women being used as political pawns by lawyers and others.


Importantly, the policy remains unimpeached – no refugee who arrived on a boat in the Abbott era would ever settle in Australia.