Rape vic­tim cries foul

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

SYD­NEY — The So­mali refugee who says she was raped and im­preg­nated on Nauru has flatly de­nied claims by the Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion that she changed her mind about end­ing the preg­nancy af­ter be­ing flown to Aus­tralia for an abor­tion.

The re­but­tal comes as fam­ily plan­ning and le­gal ex­perts said the Im­mi­gra­tion Depart­ment had po­ten­tially breached its duty of care by al­legedly re­fus­ing re­quests from the woman — known by the pseu­do­nym “Abyan” — to see a coun­sel­lor or doc­tor.

That could leave the fed­eral gov­ern­ment up to a civil claim for dam­ages on the grounds of neg­li­gence.

Af­ter a pub­lic cam­paign, Abyan — who was 14 weeks preg­nant — was flown to Aus­tralia last week to have the abor­tion but sud­denly re­turned to Nauru on a char­tered jet on Fri­day.

An in­junc­tion by her lawyer, Ge­orge Ne­w­house, to pre­vent her de­por­ta­tion failed be­cause Abyan was al­ready out of the coun­try.

In a state­ment re­leased on Satur­day, Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Pe­ter Dut­ton said Abyan had “de­cided not to pro­ceed with the ter­mi­na­tion” and lawyers and ad­vo­cates mak­ing claims to the con­trary should be “ashamed of their lies”.

But, in her first com­ments since her re­turn to Nauru, “Abyan” has said Mr Dut­ton’s de­scrip­tion of events — backed by Prime min­is­ter Malcolm Turn­bull — were false.

“I have been very sick. I have never said thate (sic) I did not want a ter­mi­na­tion,” she said in a hand-writ­ten state­ment which was pho­tographed and sent to Mr Ne­w­house.

“I never saw a doc­tor. I saw a nurse at a clinic but there was no coun­selling. I [also] saw a nurse at Villa­wood but there was no in­ter­preter. I asked but was not al­lowed to talk with my lawyer.”

Abyan is 23 years old and has been found to be a gen­uine refugee. Abor­tion is not read­ily avail­able on Nauru and Abyan’s health re­port­edly de­te­ri­o­rated dra­mat­i­cally af­ter the al­leged rape.

How­ever an Im­mi­gra­tion source said that Abyan did in fact see coun­sel­lors and doc­tors, as well as nurses, when she was in Aus­tralia. The source de­clined to re­veal just how Abyan com­mu­ni­cated her wish not have an abor­tion.

Fam­ily plan­ning and le­gal ex­perts said Abyan had the right to see coun­sel­lors and doc­tors.

“Any woman re­quest­ing coun­selling in re­la­tion to mak­ing a de­ci­sion about whether to con­tinue or ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy has a right to ac­cess ap­pro­pri­ately spe­cialised ser­vices and this is es­pe­cially rel­e­vant in a sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing trauma and al­leged rape,” said Deb­o­rah Bate­son, di­rec­tor of Fam­ily Plan­ning NSW.

One of Aus­tralia’s most prom­i­nent health­care law ex­perts, Julie Ham­blin, said, based on the ac­count by Abyan, the Im­mi­gra­tion Depart­ment may have breached its duty of care.

“If it is the case that she’s fallen preg­nant be­cause of sex­ual as­sault, there is an ob­vi­ous risk to her psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing,”she said.

“For a per­son un­der the con­trol of the Depart­ment of Im­mi­gra­tion, the gov­ern­ment has a duty of care to pro­vide her with ac­cess to the treat­ment she needs. It does not seem un­rea­son­able for the gov­ern­ment to agree to pro­vide coun­selling as a min­i­mum.”

She said any breach of the duty of care was “po­ten­tially ac­tion­able”, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing sued for neg­li­gence.

Ms Ham­blin also noted that, be­fore an abor­tion can le­gally pro­ceed in NSW, a doc­tor is re­quired to de­ter­mine that it is nec­es­sary to avert a se­ri­ous risk to the phys­i­cal or psy­cho­log­i­cal health of the woman.

How­ever, Abyan says she never saw a doc­tor, only two dif­fer­ent nurses — at Syd­ney’s Villa­wood de­ten­tion cen­tre and at an abor­tion clinic.

They in­quired, said Mr Ne­w­house, when she wanted to have the pro­ce­dure.

“She said ‘I’ll tell you to­mor­row or the next day’, and said she wanted to see a coun­sel­lor or doc­tor. She also wanted to speak to me.”

Mr Dut­ton said he be­lieved that ad­vo­cates were us­ing med­i­cal treat­ment as an ex­cuse to en­hance the prospects of refugees be­ing re­set­tled and “ap­pear to be us­ing this woman’s cir­cum­stance for their own po­lit­i­cal agenda”.

“The woman was brought to Aus­tralia for med­i­cal at­ten­tion, not for a mi­gra­tion out­come,” he said.

Mr Ne­w­house, who is spe­cial coun­sel at Shine Lawyers, said he had no in­struc­tions from Abyan to make any ap­pli­ca­tion for a mi­gra­tion out­come.

He said Abyan was deeply distressed af­ter her re­turn to Nauru and was at se­ri­ous risk of “phys­i­cal and men­tal harm”.

Greens sen­a­tor Sarah Han­son-young called on Mr Turn­bull to in­ter­vene.

“It is hard to fathom a more bru­tal way of treat­ing a scared young woman who has been raped and is strug­gling with the de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate the preg­nancy,” she said.

“This poor young woman has been through enough, she is scared and trau­ma­tised. It’s time the min­is­ter put his own pol­i­tics aside for a mo­ment and al­lowed Abyan to make her own de­ci­sions about her body and fu­ture, free from pres­sure and bul­ly­ing.”

— smh.com.au

Aus­tralian im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Pe­ter Dut­ton

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.