Published: Sat, November 16, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Behrouz Boochani: Iranian refugee 'free' after six years in Australian detention camp

Behrouz Boochani: Iranian refugee 'free' after six years in Australian detention camp

Boochani said he would like to see New Zealand do more to help the around 250 asylum-seekers who remain in Papua New Guinea, although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's offer to take 150 of them has been rejected by Canberra.

"It was quite hard to travel with a blue passport, which is for the UNHCR for the refugees, because at Port Moresby in the airport they ask many questions and it took a long time to get in the plane, in Philippines it was like that too, and in New Zealand".

He told Radio New Zealand that seeking asylum in the country was not an immediate issue while he focused on sharing his story, but it could be addressed later.

"Almost seven years ago I left Iran because of my journalism and cultural activities". So now, I have been accepted [to live in] America, finally.

"I am here to warn against this kind of system, which is created to deter refugees from seeking asylum and ultimately has caused grave harm and torture".

Behrouz Boochani will speak at Christchurch's Word festival on November 29.

Separately, in a series of Twitter posts on Thursday, Boochani criticised Kristina Keneally, the leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party, who had posted a statement welcoming Boochi's "opportunity to permanently resettle in a third country".

Boochani, an Iranian Kurd, attempted to enter Australia by boat in 2013, prompting his indefinite detention as an 'Irregular Maritime Arrival'. The boat he was on was one of two found by authorities after being lost at sea for a week.

Greg Patchell, deputy chief executive of Immigration New Zealand, said Boochani held travel documents from PNG which allowed him to come and go from PNG. He was picked up on a vessel packed with asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia from Indonesia.

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'Definitely I will try to extend my visa so hopefully New Zealand will let me stay here for another month to share this story with more people, ' he said.

The Manus Island centre was closed in late 2017, and Boochani was one of more than 300 people forcibly removed from centre.

Boochani arrived in New Zealand on Thursday after six years in the Manus Island detention centre in PNG.

"I prefer to be free of any protest for a while in the time here, because it's the first time I can walk as a free man, that's why I prefer not to talk about this anymore".

"People were killed by that system ... I'm exhausted but happy". His memoir, No Friend but the Mountains, won Australia's richest literary prize earlier this year, after all, and presenting at such festivals is a pretty standard item on any celebrated writer's itinerary. From detention, he filmed - using a hidden mobile phone - a documentary of life inside the Manus centre. Upoko Te Maire Tau and Mayor Lianne Dalziel will officially welcome him to the city.

At Port Moresby's global airport before boarding his plane, Mr Boochani said he was "happy he survived".

"This is the first place your voice will be heard".

Boochani was met at the airport by Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, who tweeted that Boochani was "thrilled and exhausted and free". "Seeing him arrive will be very moving", she said. Just to think that he's had to go through six years of torture just to access that same right.

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