Writer Behrouz Boochani given refugee status in New Zealand

Sydney, Australia, Jul 24 (efe-epa).- Award-winning Kurdish-Iranian writer and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who was detained by Australia in its offshore processing centers for six years, has been granted refugee status in New Zealand, an immigration official told EFE Friday.

Boochani arrived in New Zealand from Papua New Guinea in November last year after being granted a one-month visa to attend a literary festival in his now adopted home of Christchurch. Soon after that he applied for protection.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) can confirm that Mr Boochani has been recognized as a refugee,” Fiona Whiteridge, Immigration New Zealand’s General Manager Refugee and Migrant Services, told EFE.

He can now continue to live in New Zealand and will be able to apply for permanent residence.

Boochani was officially notified of the outcome of his asylum application on Thursday – his 37th birthday and seven years to the day after he first arrived on Australian territory.

He is also to become a senior adjunct research fellow at the University of Canterbury’s Ngai Tahu Research Center, the institution announced on Friday.

The center’s director, Associate Professor Te Maire Tau, said she was proud to be hosting him.

“As the local iwi (tribe), Ngai Tahu is laying a protective cloak over Behrouz Boochani,” she said in the statement.

Boochani, in the same statement, said he now has “certainty about my future, which is good. But I cannot fully enjoy this or celebrate while the Australian Government is still unfairly detaining people in Port Moresby, Nauru and Australia.”

“Over the last eight months I have discovered that, on the whole, New Zealanders do not tolerate hate speech. Being here will enable me to keep standing up and campaigning for better treatment of those who are still being illegally detained by Australia,” he said.

As a Kurdish investigative journalist in Iran, he was persecuted for his reporting and fled for Australia in 2013.

After he reached Christmas Island by boat on July 23, 2013, he was transferred to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island detention center.

The writer became the voice of those held in Australia’s controversial offshore centers and wrote his book “No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison” through WhatsApp messages from Manus. The book was awarded the Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia’s richest literature prize, and is being made into a film.

When that center was closed in 2017, Boochani was moved along with hundreds of other detainees to Lorengau and capital Port Moresby, spending a total of six years in Australia’s offshore processing regime before his escape to New Zealand.

Australia has refused to grant asylum seekers and refugees detained in its offshore camps – denounced by human rights advocates for being inhumane – refugee status or allowed them to settle in the country.

New Zealand has repeatedly offered to take 150 of the refugees, but Canberra has declined. EFE-EPA


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