Refugee Abyan To Return As Dutton And Nauruan Government Target Australian Media


Despite being in the middle of a television interview discussing the case, the Minister requested it not become a media spectacle. Max Chalmers reports.

Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton has confirmed Somali refugee ‘Abyan’ will be returned to Australia after she was dramatically evacuated from the country before her lawyers could secure an injunction earlier this month.

The 23-year-old woman, known only by a pseudonym, will return for counselling and medical advice after she confirmed she still intends to seek a termination for her pregnancy, allegedly the result of a rape.

The decision to return the woman came after the United Nations weighed in on the case on Tuesday.

“Abyan is in a very fragile mental and physical condition and is deeply traumatised by her experiences since the day of the alleged rape. She has refused to give information to the Nauru police about her attacker because she is understandably afraid of reprisals,” a  spokesperson for Rupert Colville, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

In an interview with Sky News Dutton asked for the woman’s privacy to be respected, but refused to confirm when she would be returned to Australia after being asked by host David Speers.

“I’m not, because I don’t want this to be some sort of media spectacle, I think the lady deserves here privacy. If there was an allegation of rape made in Australia the victim would be treated with the upmost respect and that’s what should happen in relation to this matter,” he said. “I’ve said to you before, the government’s interest is in making sure we do the right thing by this lady and we’ve given medical experts the opportunity to meet with her, to discuss the circumstances of the case.

“The decision was made that it would be in her best interest to come to Australia for medical services that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive on Nauru. She’s accepted that advice and she’ll travel to Australia and receive that medical assistance that it should be.”

Dutton, as well as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, had previously said the young woman indicated she no longer desired a termination after she was moved from Nauru to Australia earlier in the month. That was contested by Abyan and her lawyers.

With Abyan’s case drawing attention to offshore detention and processing, the Nauruan government has slammed the Australian media, labelling it racist, disrespectful, and ridiculous.

In a press release with comments attributed to David Adeang, the nation’s Justice Minister who is yet to respond to serious corruption allegations aired by the ABC, the island nation’s government slammed the “ridiculous” questions posed by Australian journalists, who remain barred from the island.

“The Australian media approaches us with great arrogance and an air of racial superiority which is highly offensive to us,” Adeang said.

He denied allegations of sexual assaults against refugees.

“But this truth doesn’t suit the activist journalists,” he said. “They need to paint a different picture to justify their political agendas and their own lack of fact-checking and poor journalism.”

The statement contrasts the one issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday.

“We are aware of a growing number of sexual assault and rape allegations since Australia restarted its policy of transferring asylum seekers to Nauru for processing in 2012. For instance, one Iranian asylum seeker was allegedly sexually assaulted last May,” it said. “She was subsequently evacuated to Australia where she is still receiving medical treatment for both mental and physical consequences of the ordeal. Her brother and mother, however, have been left behind on Nauru and do not know when they will be able to reunite with her”

Nauru has virtually no free press, and foreign journalists are forced to pay an $8,000 fee to apply for a visa. Outlets such as Al Jazeera and the ABC which have agreed to pay the fee have still not been granted access.

Just over a week ago, Malcolm Turnbull’s former Chief of Staff Chris Kenny was allowed onto the island, and filed a number of stories for The Australian.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young welcomed Abyan’s impending return.

“This young woman asked us for help in putting her life back together and we failed her,” she said in a media release.

“It has taken far too long to get to this point, but I am glad that Abyan will finally get the care that she requires.”

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.