Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian Kurd, has lived in Christchurch since fleeing Australia’s island detention in 2019 has now been granted asylum in New Zealand. He had initially sought asylum in Australia in 2013, arriving by boat, but was taken to Papua New Guinea under Australia’s hardline asylum policy.
There he became a leading voice for those detained and drew attention to their poor conditions in the camps. His experiences – which he documented on Twitter and elsewhere – helped focus international attention on Australia’s remote detention centers in the Pacific where asylum seekers can be held for an indefinite period of time.
Speaking on Friday, Mr. Boochani, now a published author and associate academic, said he finally felt relief and a sense of security about his future. New Zealand had formally recognized his refugee status, offering him a one-year work visa and pathway to citizenship. However, he said he “cannot fully celebrate” because “so many people who were incarcerated with me [on Manus Island] are still struggling to get freedom”.
In 2018, he published a book, No Friend But The Mountains, which went on to win Australia’s richest literary prize and other accolades. Because he was still imprisoned, he sent passages for the book to his publisher in Australia via WhatsApp. The book’s success proved to be his ticket off the island: New Zealand granted him a month-long visa after he was invited to speak at a literary festival in November 2019.