Lawyer tried to keep Somali rape victim in Australia

A lawyer for a pregnant Somalia refugee rape victim said he wanted to seek a court order keeping her in Australia before the government suddenly flew her to Nauru without providing the abortion she had requested.

The case of the 23-year-old woman, known by the pseudonym Abyan, has amplified criticisms of the Australian government’s tough policy of refusing to allow asylum seekers who arrive by boat to settle in Australia under any circumstances.

Asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australian shores are transferred to Australia-run immigration detention camps on the impoverished Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Abyan alleges she became pregnant at a detention camp on Nauru when she was raped in July.

She requested an abortion and the government flew her to Sydney on Sunday last week on a commercial flight for the 14-week pregnancy to be terminated.

However, she was flown the 4,000km back to Nauru on Friday in a chartered private jet, in what some critics say was a hastily arranged bid to beat a potential court order allowing her to stay.

Government officials said she was sent back because she had decided to not proceed with the termination.

Abyan said in a statement from Nauru she had not changed her mind, but had been denied an interpreter and counselling.

“I have been very sick,” she wrote in a signed statement. “I have never said that [sic] I did not want a termination.”

Lawyer George Newhouse said that he had started preparing an application for a temporary court injunction keeping her in Australia when he discovered Abyan was to be sent back to Nauru. She was gone before he could make the application.

“When we heard an hour before she was being removed from the country without treatment — that that was going to happen — of course we tried to stop her for going back without treatment,” Newhouse told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton denied Abyan’s claims she was not given access to doctors or an interpreter. He said 240 asylum seekers who have come to Australia for medical treatment from Nauru had succeeded in getting court injunctions preventing their return.

Neil Skill of the department of immigration told a Senate committee that he decided to charter a flight because there were no commercial seats available on the day and he was worried about the disruption Abyan might cause on a commercial flight.


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