On Friday night, as lawyers worked feverishly to bring an interlocutory application before the Federal Court of Australia to injunct the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, from returning a 23-year-old raped, and 12-14 weeks pregnant, Somali refugee, known as Abyan (not her real name), to Nauru, Mr Dutton was also very busy.
He was chartering a RAAF 737 to remove her from the country before the Federal Court could intervene, and before she could receive an abortion and other related medical treatment in Australia, the very reason why she was brought here.
Abyan arrived on Christmas Island on 21 October 2013, and was transferred to Nauru on 28 October. She was assessed as a genuine refugee on 4 November 2014.
The actions of Mr Dutton continue to highlight the disregard of the Coalition government to the founding principles of our democracy and the rule of law, and utter contempt for women, refugees, human rights and human dignity.
Mr Dutton’s callous comments on Thursday night on ABC Radio cause me to question his fitness for public office, and I call for his immediate dismissal by the Prime Minister:
The racket that’s been going on here is that people, at the margins, come to Australia from Nauru, the Government’s then injuncted, we can’t send them back to Nauru and there are over 200 people in that category.
Now, as I say, we want to provide support to the Nauruans. We want to provide a safe environment, a humane environment for people, but we aren’t going to be taken for mugs.
Peter Dutton on the ABC’s PM (15 October 2015)
No, Mr Dutton, pregnancy or being raped, and falling pregnant from rape, is not a women’s ‘racket.’ Your careless comments, particularly troubling in the context of Abyan’s case, illustrate why you are unfit for public office, in any capacity, especially as Minister for Immigration.
And this is not the first time you illustrated callousness, and utter disregard for humanity, which disentitles you from the benefit of doubt.
• The Turnbull report
• What a mutton!
• ‘Worst refugee crisis since World War II’
• When the ends justify the means …
• Women’s rights must become a global priority
The Department of Immigration based Abyan’s removal from Australia on her alleged ‘refusal’ to attend a scheduled medical appointment of Thursday, which they chose to interpret as a refusal to terminate the pregnancy. Her lawyer, George Newhouse, made it clear this was not the case. All she wanted was proper care, including sufficient pre-termination counselling, to enable her to make an informed choice, and to emotionally and mentally prepare for the procedure.
It would appear the Department of Immigration may have deliberately misinterpreted and misconstrued her position in order to support the government’s cruel policies on asylum seekers, taking our government’s approach to asylum seekers to a new low.
Abortion is illegal on Nauru, thus Abyan’s only option is to have the procedure performed in Australia. Terminating a pregnancy, especially after the trauma of rape, is not like popping a zit Mr Dutton!
Abyan required proper medical care, including rape counselling, pre-termination counselling and post-procedure care. Your actions prevented her from receiving proper medical care, or being treated as a human being, shaming our nation yet again. You are an embarrassment to this country.
Abyan also feared being sent back to Nauru:
I cannot go back there where this is happened to me. I cannot go to where I was raped. What happened to me there is what caused me to run away from Somalia. What happened to me in Somalia is what happened to me there.
Abyan has been too frightened to lodge a formal police complaint, and no one has been held responsible for her rape. Stuck on an island, with a population of 10,000 people, it’s not hard to see why a raped woman would be concerned about her rapist becoming aware of her complaint.
As evidence continues to mount about the systematic sexual abuse of asylum seekers in our offshore detention facilities, Abyan’s case further highlights a serious duty of care, and law and order issue, with respect to asylum seekers being shunted off to places such as Nauru.
Today, yet again, I hang my hear in same over the actions of our government.
- the immediate dismissal of Mr Dutton;
- the return of Abyan to Australia for proper medical treatment;
- an apology from the Prime Minister for the government’s ongoing callous disregard for human rights, the rule of law and our democratic institutions; and
- an immediate review of our flawed and inhumane asylum seeker policies.