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Immigration Dept Knew Pregnant Refugee Still Wanted Abortion


Tuesday, 5th January 2016 at 11:43 am
Ellie Cooper, Journalist
Immigration officials were aware the 23 year old pregnant Somali refugee, known as Abyan, did not change her mind about wanting an abortion prior to being deported from Australia, documents released under freedom of information have revealed.

Tuesday, 5th January 2016
at 11:43 am
Ellie Cooper, Journalist


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Immigration Dept Knew Pregnant Refugee Still Wanted Abortion
Tuesday, 5th January 2016 at 11:43 am

Immigration officials were aware the 23 year old pregnant Somali refugee, known as Abyan, did not change her mind about wanting an abortion prior to being deported from Australia, documents released under freedom of information have revealed.

In October last year Abyan, allegedly raped on Nauru, was transferred to Australia after requesting an abortion before being returned to the detention centre without undergoing the procedure.    

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement on 17 October last year that the “the woman has decided not to proceed with the termination”, despite Abyan’s lawyers appealing for an injunction.

“Comments from some advocates to the contrary are a fabrication, while others appear to be using this woman's circumstance for their own political agenda. They should be ashamed of their lies,” Dutton said.

“The woman was chartered back to Nauru. The woman was brought to Australia for medical attention not for a migration outcome.”

However, emails obtained under freedom of information by human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter  showed that Department of Immigration and Border Protection staff were aware this was incorrect.

In an email on 14 October to Cindy Briscoe, Support Group Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Border Force, Neil Skill, First Assistant Secretary of the Detention Services Division said Abyan had not yet made a decision about her treatment.

“Ihmn [International Health and Medical Services] will provide counselling to her today if possible, to allow her to come to a decision about proceeding with the termination. We have retained the procedure appointment for Friday,” Skill said.

“If she decides to proceed, she will then be returned to Nauru as soon as medically fit to travel. If she decides to not proceed, we will make arrangements to have her return to Nauru ASAP.

“If she continues to vacillate, we will make a decision early next week about her return to Nauru.

“I think the lawyer is buying time so he can seek legal intervention.”

Abyan was provided with two appointment options for the procedure, and after not wanting to take either the department took this as her decision to not terminate the pregnancy.   

However, on the 19 October 2015 Amanda Little, Assistant Secretary of Detention Health Services, received an email from a person whose name was not revealed that said Abyan was “too mentally unwell” to undergo the abortion at the given times.

“As per our previous discussions, after she declined the procedure I asked her (more than once) whether she has changed her mind and no longer wanted a TOP [termination of pregnancy],” the email said.  

“She consistently said that she still wanted to have a TOP, she just didn’t want it that day or the following week.”

Little requested further clarification, “where you say she hadn’t changed her mind completely”.  

“I explored her reasons for declining the procedure but she just stated that she felt ‘too mentally unwell’ and wouldn’t elaborate,” the response said.

“I asked whether it was because she had concerns about the procedure itself, and she said no. I asked whether she had changed her mind altogether, and she said no.”

Tranter has called for a Royal Commission into the matter.


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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