Behrouz Boochani: refugee author obtained asylum in New Zealand

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Behrouz Boochani is a leading voice for asylum seekers detained in Australian island detention camps


A high profile refugee who was detained by Australia for six years was granted asylum in New Zealand.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian Kurd, has lived in Christchurch since his escape to the Australian island in 2019.

He had originally applied for asylum in Australia in 2013, arriving by boat, but was taken to Papua New Guinea under Australia’s strict asylum policy.

There he became a leading voice for the detainees and called attention to their poor conditions in the camps.

His experiences – which he has documented on Twitter and elsewhere – have helped bring international attention to Australia’s remote detention centers in the Pacific where asylum seekers can be held indefinitely.

  • Behrouz Boochani: the refugee who made a film in secret

More than 400 asylum seekers remain in Australia’s two controversial offshore detention sites, located on Manus Island in PNG and the island nation of Nauru.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Boochani, now published author and associate scholar, said he finally felt relief and a sense of security about his future.

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Media captionBehrouz Boochani on Australia’s “barbaric policy” towards boat people

New Zealand had officially recognized his refugee status, offering him a one-year work visa and a path to citizenship, he told the Guardian Australia newspaper.

However, he said he “cannot fully celebrate” because “so many people who have been incarcerated with me [on Manus Island] are still struggling for freedom ”.

How did Boochani get out?

A persecuted journalist in his homeland, Mr. Boochani recounted his life and events at the Manus Detention Center on social media. In the early years, he was one of the centre’s only voices, as Australia initially barred journalists and rights activists from surrendering.

In 2018, he published a book, No Friend But The Mountains, which won Australia’s richest literary award and other accolades. Because he was still in prison, he sent passages from the book to his publisher in Australia via WhatsApp.

The book’s success turned out to be his ticket off the island: New Zealand granted him a month-long visa after being invited to speak at the literary festival in November 2019.

He previously said his trip was the first time he had tasted “freedom” in six years. There, he filed a request for protection, which prevented the Australian authorities from ordering his return to PNG.

What are the detention centers like?

The Australian government has always defended its policies of island detention and border protection – which only apply to asylum seekers arriving by boat.

They say his policies are needed to deter dangerous attempts to reach the country by sea.

However, the conditions of the detention centers and the policy itself – which allows indefinite detention as asylum claims are processed – have been condemned as “inhumane” by the United Nations agency for human rights. refugees and human rights groups.

During Mr. Boochani’s stay in the camps, there were a series of violent incidents, including a riot involving guards and refugees in 2014, in which dozens of injured and one asylum seeker were killed.

Since 2014, at least 13 asylum seekers have died in detention, including seven by known or suspected suicide.

In 2017, Australia paid A $ 70million (£ 39million; $ 49million) to 1,905 men – including Mr Boochani – after filing a lawsuit claiming they had suffered harm in the center of the Isle of Manus. The government offered the payment but denied any wrongdoing.

New Zealand has also already offered to resettle 150 refugees from Australian island detention centers, but this has been rejected by Canberra.

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