Australia

Australia 'will not move pregnant asylum seekers from Nauru'

The Pacific island of Nauru Image copyright AFP
Image caption The desolate island nation of Nauru holds migrants while Australia processes their asylum claims

Pregnant asylum seekers in Australia's Nauru migrant camp will not be allowed to come to Australia, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said.

It comes after rights groups said some pregnant women on the island were refusing medical treatment.

Mr Dutton told 2GB radio some asylum seekers were using "blackmail" to come to Australia.

Australia had given A$26m ($19m; £26m) to Nauru's hospital for the treatment on the Pacific island, he said.

A Somali woman who became pregnant after allegedly being raped on Nauru arrived in Australia earlier this week.

The woman, 23, had been asking for weeks to be transferred from Nauru, part of Australia's offshore network housing people seeking asylum, to Australia so she could have an abortion.

Abortion is illegal in the tiny island nation of Nauru, except where the mother's life is at risk.

'Firm stance'

In Thursday's interview, Mr Dutton said the Australian government would not "be taken for mugs".

"The racket that's been going here is that people at the margins come to Australia from Nauru... We can't send them back to Nauru and there are over 200 people in that category."

Mr Dutton said asylum seekers could be sent to an international hospital in Papua New Guinea if sufficient medical care on Nauru was not available.

He said Canberra had provided A$11m for that hospital.

"If people believe that they're going to somehow try and blackmail us into an outcome to come to Australia by saying we're not going to have medical assistance and therefore we put our babies at risk - that's a judgement for people to make... But we're not going to bend to that pressure.

"I believe very strongly that we need to take a firm stance, provide the medical support that's required, but if people think they're going to force our hand to come to Australia - that is not going to happen."

The Refugee Action Coalition group earlier expressed concerns for seven pregnant women, saying Nauru was not equipped to deal with complicated births, Australia's ABC broadcaster reports.

Under Australia's tough asylum policy, any irregular migrants trying to reach the country by boat are intercepted and held in centres on Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

The government says this deters people-traffickers but there has been been criticism of the conditions at the camps.

In September, a report by the senate committee found conditions on Nauru were not "appropriate or safe". It said allegations of rape and abuse should be investigated.

Australia's top court is currently reviewing the legality of the centres.

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