Nauru—not fit for pregnant women, not fit for anyone

Another mother-to-be brought from Nauru to Brisbane at the end of January has won a reprieve from being sent back to Nauru.

The 31 year-old Iranian, Narges, was brought to Brisbane for tests after being struck in the stomach by a volley ball. Twenty-eight weeks pregnant, she was told she was being sent back to Nauru on 15 February.

Following the threat of legal action, the government has backed down, stopped her removal and agreed to give the lawyers 48 hours notice of any future attempt to remove her to Nauru.

This is the second time legal action has prevented the government returning pregnant women or new mothers to Nauru.

In November last year, the government’s separation of a Rohingyan mother from her sick new-born baby in the Brisbane Mater hospital resulted in widespread outrage and protests around the country.

Legal action won a stay preventing the removal of Latifar and baby Ferouz and the rest of their family to Nauru.

Under their so-called “no exemptions” policy, the Abbott government is deliberately sending pregnant women and unaccompanied minors to Nauru—despite there being no proper facilities for pregnant woman or children on Nauru. To make their point, ten Hazara boys were recently transferred from Christmas Island to Nauru.

The fact that Narges had to be brought to Brisbane after being hit by the volleyball is evidence enough that Nauru’s medical facilities are manifestly inadequate. Add that to the heat, the plastic marquee accommodation, the water shortages, the queues for food and it is clear that Nauru is no fit place for babies, new mothers or anyone else.

Pregnant women being transferred to Nauru are being told that they will not be taken to Brisbane to have their babies—they will give birth on Nauru. That is what Narges was told.

But there are at least three pregnant couples from Nauru in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation detention centre and another couple in Brisbane. We need to fight to stop any asylum seeker brought to Australia from being sent back to Nauru.

The casualties keep mounting. An Iranian mother was brought to Brisbane so her ten-year-old could have a kidney removed. A 17-year-old Pakistani was sent back to Nauru after surgery for a kidney stone.

The facts speak for themselves—Nauru should be closed.

By Ian Rintoul

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