Kurdish-Iranian refugee author granted asylum in New Zealand

By: AFP      Published: 12:23 PM, 24 Jul, 2020
Kurdish-Iranian refugee author granted asylum in New Zealand

A Kurdish-Iranian refugee who wrote an award-winning book on his mobile phone while held in one of Australia's notorious Pacific detention camps has been granted asylum in New Zealand, officials said Friday.

Behrouz Boochani has been in New Zealand since November when he applied for refugee status after attending a literary festival to speak about his six years in limbo under Australia's hardline immigration policies.

Immigration New Zealand said Boochani's application had been successful, which means he has the right to stay in the South Pacific nation indefinitely.

"Mr. Boochani has been recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol," it said in a brief statement, refusing to release further details on privacy grounds.

Reports said the decision was relayed to the author on Thursday, his 37th birthday.

A relieved Boochani vowed to continue campaigning for refugee rights from his adopted homeland, where he will apply for permanent residency.

"I now have 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," he said in a statement.

Boochani is currently working as a researcher at Canterbury University in the South Island city of Christchurch.

He painstakingly tapped out his book "No Friend But The Mountains" on WhatsApp while detained in the Australian-run Manus Island migrant camp off Papua New Guinea, which is now officially closed.

After being pulled from a sinking boat in Australian waters in 2013, Boochani was held in Papua New Guinea under a policy adopted by Canberra to prevent asylum seekers arriving by sea from setting foot on Australian soil.

His account of his plight won numerous awards, including Australia's richest literary honour, the Victorian Prize for Literature.

New Zealand Green Party human rights spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman, a longtime supporter of Boochani, said the refugee decision showed her country was "a place where fairness and compassion prevails".

"People escaping torture and persecution based on their religion, race, and political activism deserve a place to call home, they deserve protection," she said.

"We welcome Behrouz wholeheartedly."

He fled Iran for Indonesia in 2013 when the Kurdish magazine he wrote for was raided by the military for publishing anti-government articles.

He then paid a people-smuggler to take him to Australia but the voyage ended with him being sent to Manus Island.