Hodan’s Story

My name is Hodan. I was just 16 in 2013 when I fled my country. Somalia is dangerous for young women and girls because of rape, FGM, violence against women and child marriage. I had to leave and I undertook the dangerous boat journey from Indonesia to Christmas Island hoping to find safety and freedom.

Instead, members of Australian Immigration subjected me to an “age-determination” interview. They said my mature answers to several of their questions must mean I was over 18.  So they sent me to the isolated Nauru Remote Processing Centre along with other unaccompanied teenage girls they also decided were adults.

On Nauru I lived in a mouldy tent in tropical heat until receiving my positive refugee determination. Then they sent me and several other young Somali girls out of the detention camp to a tiny house, in an isolated area surrounded by bush. Nauru is not safe for women or refugees and every time my friends and I left our house we were subjected to sexual harassment by local men. Several of my friends were raped. I was constantly afraid.

In November 2015 I woke up in a Brisbane Hospital. Doctors told me I’d been in a coma for 16 days after being knocked over by a motorbike ridden by Nauruan locals. It took me a long time to recover physically but I was eventually moved to detention in Brisbane. I continued to have problems with my short-term memory. My mental health was bad. I was very afraid of being returned to Nauru and one day I swallowed washing powder to try and kill myself.  Three days later, despite still being considered a suicide risk by medical staff, Border Force officers forcefully dragged me from BITA, grabbing hold of me by my arms and legs.  They took me back to Nauru.

For three days I continued to scream that I wanted to kill myself. They kept me in medical at the detention camp on line of site watch because of this. Despite this, I left the centre and obtained a can of petrol. I used it to set myself on fire.

Somehow, I’m still alive, back in a Brisbane hospital, facing years of treatment for my severe physical injuries and mental trauma caused by Australia’s “stop the boats” policy.

 

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