Behrouz Boochani granted asylum in New Zealand, report.
Eight months after arriving in New Zealand, acclaimed author Behrouz Boochani has been granted refugee status.
The Kurdish-Iranian writer joins a small group of successful applicants. Having refugee status means he can stay in New Zealand indefinitely and can apply for a resident’s visa.
When Boochani left Papua New Guinea – where he was detained for six years after attempting to enter Australia – ABC reported he had been accepted for resettlement in the United States.
He travelled to New Zealand for a writers’ festival in Christchurch in November, on a one-month visa supported by Amnesty International NZ, and has lived in the city while seeking asylum.
His award-winning book, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison made him the toast of the literary world and former prime minister Helen Clark was among the thousands of people to welcome him via Twitter.
In Christchurch, he was greeted by Mayor Lianne Dalziel. He has been active on Twitter and has appeared via video-link at Newcastle Writers Festival in Australia and British event Refugee Tales.
Boochani fled Iran in 2013 fearing persecution. In July of that year he reached Indonesia and boarded a boat for Australia but the vessel was intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy and he was incarcerated at a refugee centre on Manus Island.
He said the granting of refugee status marked the end of a chapter of his life.
“… a long chapter in which I was involved in a long struggle against a barbaric policy, against this system that exiled innocent people and kept people in indefinite detention for a long time.”
“But of course fighting continues, so I look at it in this way, but of course it’s very important that now I have some certainty about my future, so now I feel stronger, I feel stable to continue to work here.”
Boochani has been awarded a role as an adjunct senior research fellowship with the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre at the University of Canterbury.
“My work is not just about refugees, it is about minorities, migration, identity… academic work and journalism is my whole career.”
During his six years in detention on Manus Island Boochani became an outspoken critic of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Now he intends to continue that “fight”.
National’s immigration spokesperson, Stuart Smith, questioned the legitimacy of the process over Boochani’s application for asylum and suggested he received favourable treatment from Immigration New Zealand because he had supporters in the government.
Smith said the minister of immigration or department had not given any direction to allow Boochani to enter the country, and he did not meet the criteria for a refugee as it was not true he had nowhere else to go.
“He [Boochani] publicly stated he had been accepted to settle in the US, or he could go back to live in Papua New Guinea.”
Boochani and his lawyer, Alister James, rejected the claims.
James said the application was a very robust, non-political process in line with the Immigration Act and established processes that had been applied for decades under the United Nations Convention on Refugee Status.
“It is not safe for Mr Boochani to return to Papua New Guinea and the decision reflects all of those things.”
James said a presidential order made by President Donald Trump banning the entry of Iranian nationals to the US would make it impossible for Boochani to live there.
Boochani said he did not know any politicians in New Zealand before arriving for the Writers Festival and his political independence was extremely important to him.
“I don’t want to be friends with politicians.”
He said the National Party had tried to emulate Australian politicians by politicising his case to create division, but there was less tolerance of that approach in New Zealand.
Refugees to New Zealand who have achieved acclaim include Golriz Ghahraman, New Zealand’s first MP from a refugee background, Rez Gardi who was named Young New Zealander of the Year 2017 and Eliana Rubashkyn, who was forced to leave Colombia because of the violence towards trans and intersex people.
Applications for refugee and protection status in New Zealand increased from 287 in 2013-14 to 510 in 2018-19 and between 2010 and 2020 they were made by people from more than 45 nationalities.
Of those, 496 were Chinese nationals, 259 were Indian and 237 were Sri Lankan.