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‘Like an experimental concentration camp’: Doctors performed hysterectomies on migrant women in camps, says whistleblower

James Crump
the Department of Homeland Security flag flies outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in Washington, DC ((AFP))
the Department of Homeland Security flag flies outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in Washington, DC ((AFP))

Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that the US needs to “atone” for human rights violations, in response to allegations of abuse against migrants from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whistleblower.

On Monday, Dawn Wooten, a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Centre (ICDC) in Georgia, filed a complaint alongside advocacy groups including, Project South, to the Office of the inspector general (OIG) at the Department of Homeland Security, according to Law and Crime.

In the complaint, Ms Wooten claimed that there was “jarring medical neglect” at the facility, and said that several Spanish-speaking women had come forward to Project South to report what they felt was an excessive amount of female detainees forced into having hysterectomies, which involves removing part of or all of the uterus, according to the BBC.

“Recently, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five different women detained at ICDC between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done,” the complaint read.

“When she (Ms Wooten) talked to them about the surgery, the women reacted confused when explaining why they had one done. The woman told Project South that it was as though the women were trying to tell themselves 'it’s going to be OK.’”

Speaking about the detainees’ confusion around the surgery, Ms Wooten wrote in the complaint: “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

The complaint also noted that officials at the detention facility had refused to test detainees for Covid-19, “who have been exposed to the virus and are symptomatic,” and accused them of shredding “medical requests submitted by detained immigrants, and fabricating medical records.”

Responding to the report on Twitter, Ms Ocasio-Cortez wrote: “The fact of the matter is the United States has engaged in a program of mass human rights violations targeting immigrants.

“This includes mass child separation, systemic sexual assault of people in detention, kangaroo-court procedures, & more. Our country must atone for it all.”

Democratic senator Ed Markey tweeted: “Abolish ICE” in reference to the report, while Democratic representative Mark Pocan wrote: “This is horrifying. Forced sterilizations are eugenics & a human rights abuse that must be fully investigated immediately.”

In the complaint, Azadeh Shahshahani, an attorney with Project South, called for an immediate investigation into the allegations of abuse.

“For years, advocates in Georgia have raised red flags about the human rights violations occurring inside the Irwin County Detention Centre,” she said.

“Ms Wooten's whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years,” Ms Shahshahani added.

In response to the allegations, ICE shared a statement with Law and Crime, where the agency wrote: “US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the inspector general, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the US Department of Homeland Security.”

The agency added: “ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results.

“That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate scepticism they deserve.”

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