Behrouz Boochani free in New Zealand
Author and journalist Behrouz Boochani is finally free and now living in New Zealand, after six years on Manus Island.
Mr Boochani announced his arrival in the country on Twitter on Thursday, 14 November 2019.
His tweet received a warm response from former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, which simply read “Welcome to New Zealand.”
“In my heart I am happy: I feel free,” Mr Boochani said.
The move came after the UNHCR provided documents to prove Mr Boochani’s refugee status and after Amnesty International sponsored a visa for him and assisted in gaining the approval of Papua New Guinea’s immigration officials.
Mr Boochani now has a one-month visa in New Zealand so that he can attend the World Christchurch festvial. He has said he hopes to go to the United States afterwards, as the country has accepted him as part of a prior refugee swap deal struck between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Boochani is an accomplished journalist and an Adjunct Professor at the University of New South Wales. He won the literary prize for his book, No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison. He wrote this book by sending messages from his phone on Manus Island, a task that was made more difficult when it was repeatedly confiscated.
In 2013, he wrote a series of articles for the magazine Werya that led to his office being raided by the Islamic Revoltionary Guard Corps. He subsequently fled Iran after 11 of his colleagues were imprisoned, and made his way to Indonesia via Southeast Asia.
Since 2013, the Australian government has refused to allow any asylum seekers who arrive by boat to settle in Australia, a policy introduced by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and maintained by subsequent Liberal governments. The policy has bipartisan support from Australia’s major political parties, who argue that it is necessary to prevent drownings at sea.
The Uniting Church has long called for fair and just treatment for refugees.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor