New Zealand grants asylum to Kurdish-Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani

Behrouz Boochani is now free to live and work in New Zealand.

Behrouz Boochani is now free to live and work in New Zealand. Photo: News Video

Former Manus Island detainee and journalist Behrouz Boochani has had his claim for asylum accepted by New Zealand and has been granted a visa to stay in the country.

He can now live and work in New Zealand.

The Kurdish-Iranian journalist spent six years in detention in Papua New Guinea as he awaited processing for his asylum request after attempting to enter Australia by boat in 2013.

He gained worldwide attention in 2019 after his book, No Friend But The Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, won the Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia’s richest literature prize.

He was granted a one-month visa to speak at a literary festival in Christchurch in November last year and made an application for asylum in New Zealand shortly afterwards.

Mr Boochani was notified by New Zealand’s government that his claim for asylum had been accepted on Thursday, exactly seven years to the day after his arrival in Australia in 2013.

Following the closure of the Manus Island centre in 2017, Boochani and his fellow detainees were moved to refugee transit centres near the island’s main town of Lorengau, and later, to the country’s capital Port Moresby.

Mr Boochani’s 374-page book, detailing his experiences in detention, was written in secret and was smuggled out of the detention centre via hundreds of text messages to his translators and editors in Australia.

His future assured, Mr Boochani will take up a position at the University of Canterbury, and continue to write.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had pledged never to allow Mr Boochani to set foot in Australia.

Mr Boochani has attacked Australia’s offshore detention regime as inhumane, illegal and immoral.

“I cannot fully celebrate this because so many people who were incarcerated with me are still struggling to get freedom, still in PNG, on Nauru, in detention in Australia,” he said.

“And even if they are released, Australia’s policy still exists.”

Amnesty International, which sponsored Mr Boochani’s travel from PNG to NZ last year, said they were “thrilled” with the outcome.

“But we mustn’t forget there are still hundreds of others stuck offshore who also need to be brought to safety,” Australian refugee coordinator Graham Thom said.

New Zealand has offered to accept 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention system, but the two governments have not reached a deal to do so.

The University of Canterbury has offered Mr Boochani the role of senior adjunct research fellow, based at the Ngai Tahu Research Centre, an indigenous research institute.

Te Maire Tau, the centre’s director, said Mr Boochani would be warmly welcomed by the local Maori iwi, or community.

“As the local iwi, Ngai Tahu is laying a protective cloak over Behrouz Boochani,” he said.

“The University of Canterbury has a history of supporting refugees going back as far as the 1930s, when Karl Popper the philosopher arrived as a Jewish refugee from Austria.”

-with agencies

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