CANBERRA, Australia — A Somali refugee who alleged she was raped in Nauru will be flown to Australia for a second time to potentially have an abortion, Australia’s government said Wednesday, a day after the United Nations’ human rights agency demanded she get another opportunity to have her 15-week pregnancy terminated.
The case of the 23-year-old woman, known by the pseudonym Abyan, has amplified criticism of the Australian government’s policy of refusing to allow asylum seekers who arrive by boat to settle in Australia under any circumstances.
Asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australian shores are transferred to Australia-run immigration detention camps in the impoverished Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Australia flew Abyan 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) to Sydney for an abortion on Oct. 11, but she returned five days later still pregnant. The government said she had changed her mind.
Abyan said in a statement from Nauru that she had not changed her mind, but had been denied an interpreter and counseling. Abortion is illegal in Nauru.
Critics argue that she should have been given more time in Australia. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he was concerned that 240 asylum seekers who flew to Australia for medical treatment then got court injunctions preventing their return to Nauru.
Dutton said Wednesday that Abyan would return to Australia to consult a doctor and receive mental health support, but would not say when.
“She will travel to Australia and will seek some expert assistance from medical staff in Australia,” Dutton told Sky News television.
He said Australia was not prompted by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call on Tuesday for Australia and Nauru to “urgently provide a decent option for Abyan … to obtain adequate mental and physical care and to terminate her pregnancy if she desires.”
“These plans have been in the making for some days,” Dutton said.
Abortions are legal for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy in Australia. Abyan has not reported the rape to Nauru police. The UNHCR said she fears reprisals in Nauru, which has a population of 10,000.
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