Urgent assistance needed for pregnant Somali refugee

| October 7, 2015 | Reply

The Refugee Action Coalition has called for urgent assistance to be provided to a Somali refugee, “Abyan” on Nauru who became pregnant after allegedly being raped in August.

Despite repeated requests, the Immigration Department has refused the woman’s request to arrange the termination of the pregnancy.

Although IHMS has overall responsibility for medical services for asylum seekers, they do not have that responsibility for those who are found to be refugees. Decisions regarding refugees, and whether they will be provided with care in Australia, are made by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

“We are extremely worried about Abyan’s health,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “She is very sick and distressed and has been shamefully neglected by the Immigration Department, Nauru medical services and by Connect, the service providers on the island.”

Abyan has not seen a doctor for four weeks, and has not left her accommodation. She has been so sick, that she has been subsisting on a diet of milk and water. She has lost 10 kilograms in the past month and now weighs only 66 kilos.

“Abyan’s case is urgent. Her mental and physical health has been put at risk by the negligence of the Nauru service providers and by the Australian Immigration department.

“Immigration and Border Protection officers have no business acting as the moral police on Nauru or interfering with the rights and proper medical care of this Somali refugee.

“Malcolm Turnbull says he wants Australia to be known for its respect of women. But his government is showing no respect for the women under Australia’s care on Nauru.”


Statement from Professor Caroline de Costa:

I have been informed that a woman asylum seeker at present living on Nauru is currently ten weeks pregnant as the result of an alleged rape. I am further informed that this woman has requested termination of her pregnancy through medical services and Border Force personnel on Nauru but that no arrangements have yet been made to comply with her request. I have had no direct contact with the woman herself or with any medical practitioner caring for her.

However as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist registered in Queensland and an academic with a longterm interest in abortion law, I can state unequivocally that if this woman’s story is correct she would be lawfully entitled to termination of pregnancy in any jurisdiction in Australia except South Australia, the latter exception only because she has not resided in that state for the past two months. Furthermore safe surgical abortion is currently available to all women resident in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, all states accessible for transport for her from Nauru.

The earlier in pregnancy abortion is performed the safer it is. This woman who is under the care of the government of Australia should be transferred without delay to Australia, to a service where she can have appropriate consultation, examination and care from experienced and sympathetic professionals, an informed decision made by her, and termination of pregnancy performed if that is in fact her decision. She should also receive care appropriate for women following sexual assault. This is the standard of care we believe essential for women resident in Australia; it should also be provided for women supposedly under the protection of Australia.

Professor Caroline de Costa AM MBBS MPH PhD FRANZCOG FRCOG FRCS (Glas)
James Cook University School of Medicine

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713


Category: Press releases

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