Court: Australia can’t force refugee rape victim to PNG

Federal court says Australia cannot force a refugee rape victim in Nauru to move to Papua New Guniea for an abortion because it’s ‘unsafe and illegal’ there.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protesters from the Refugee Action Coalition hold placards during a demonstration outside the offices of the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Sydney, Australia, April 29, 2016.

Updated May 9, 2016

A federal court ruled that Australia cannot force a refugee, who was raped in Nauru detention centre, to Papua New Guinea (PNG) for her abortion, because it’s “unsafe and illegal” there.

Justice Mordecai Bromberg ruled late on Friday that the procedure is illegal in PNG and they lacked the medical expertise and physiological and psychological conditions.

"The abortion in Papua New Guinea made available to the applicant is attended by safety and lawfulness risks that a reasonable person in the minister's position would have avoided," Bromberg said in his 150-page judgment.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton ordered that she should be sent to PNG for the abortion procedure. Since then the refugee women spent a month in PNG.

Justice Bromberg did not order her transfer to Australia, but he said "She has been and remains dependant on the Minister for food, shelter, security and health care."

The African victim, referred as S99 in court texts, was raped while she was unconscious in Nauru detention centre.

She has sought an abortion in Australia, and her lawyer George Newhouse told the court that PNG laws prohibits abortion.

Asylum-seekers look through a fence at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea March 21, 2014. (Reuters)

"The mental health risks are greater the longer the pregnancy progresses against her will," said the IHMS medical report, the Sydney-based company Australia works with for health services in Nauru and Manus detention centres.

Australia, under its immigration laws, has been sending asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by boat to remote processing centres on Manus or the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, and it doesn’t allow them resettlement in Australia even if they are found to be genuine refugees.

There are around 850 people detained in Manus and around 500 people in Nauru on behalf of Australia.

Australia has been under sharp international criticism from human rights groups and refugee advocates including the United Nations for its divisive refugee policy.

Sydney has also been at loggerheads with PNG since Port Moresby said it will close Australia’s detention centre for refugees on its Manus Island, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal and must stop.

The number of people trying to reach Australia is small compared with Europe or Middle East, but immigration has been a hot political issue and flared again during campaigning for likely July elections.

Participants hold a candle light vigil for an Iranian refugee, who died after setting himself on fire, in Sydney on April 30, 2016. (AFP)

Asylum seekers have recently resorted to self-harming to protest the conditions in Nauru. A 23-year-old man from Iran set himself on fire at the centre in recent days to protest his treatment.

A refugee, who wants to remain anonymous, told TRT World that he was formerly released to Melbourne’s Immigration Transit Accommodation from one of the islands.

The victim said he was forced to live in a small room of at least 200 people with only two toilets for everyone to use. He said the toilets were flooded up to his knees and he couldn’t wash himself for a whole month.

TRTWorld and agencies