Documents obtained under Australia’s Freedom of Information laws have revealed that a Somali refugee allegedly raped on Nauru had not decided against having an abortion, contrary to earlier claims by the immigration minister, local media reported Saturday.
In mid-October, the 23-year-old woman known by the pseudonym "Abyan" was flown from Nauru -- where Australia holds asylum-seekers in an offshore detention center, and where abortions are mostly illegal -- only to be sent back on a chartered jet shortly after.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had said that Abyan "decided not to proceed with the termination".
Her lawyer, however, said she had requested to see a counselor or doctor and to provide a response within a few days on whether she wished to have her pregnancy terminated.
News broadcaster ABC reported Saturday that documents show that Abyan had told a medical professional she did not wish to undergo an abortion immediately as she felt "too mentally unwell".
They also said "she did make it clear that she hasn't completely changed her mind and understands that she can access the procedure in New South Wales for up to 20 weeks".
Correspondence between Australia’s Border Protection and Immigration Department also showed that the Australian Border Force had warned of “a risk that once in Australia [Abyan] will seek to join legal action which would prevent her return", according to the ABC.
When Abyan was returned to Nauru, Dutton had accused advocates of "using this woman's circumstance for their own political agenda" and insisted that she was "brought to Australia for medical attention, not for a migration outcome".
A few days later, he announced that Abyan would be transferred back to Australia again to consult medical personnel about having an abortion.
She is reportedly currently receiving medical attention under detention in Brisbane.
Kellie Tranter, a lawyer and human rights activist who obtained the documents, said Abyan's wishes were misrepresented.
"The documents certainly suggest that in the case of Abyan that the department, at least two senior bureaucrats within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection were certainly aware that Abyan had not refused to have a termination," the ABC quoted her as saying.
She expressed concern that “this woman, or indeed any woman, who had been through such traumatic circumstances was portrayed as somebody who was deliberately and in some calculated fashion trying to engineer a way into the country."
Tranter added that while the documents "do not implicate the minister directly", they nonetheless suggest that "the minister was misinformed by his department about the actual circumstances around Abyan's case, in which case he'd have a serious problem, or he did know and again he would have a serious problem”.
She also underlined that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had also "backed that version of events".
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Dutton told the ABC that "the minister has clearly stated previously this is a private medical matter and we do not intend to comment on an individual's medical issues".
The spokesperson added: "Appropriate health support, information and counselling was provided at all times and decisions were made based on medical advice."
Australia’s strict policy of refusing to resettle asylum-seekers who arrive by boat and of holding them in offshore detention centers has been denounced by rights groups.
In November, more than 100 countries at a United Nations human rights forum in Geneva -- including Turkey -- criticized its policy.