WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Kurdish-Iranian exile and writer Behrouz Boochani, who was held in an Australian-run offshore island detention camp for about six years, has been granted refugee status in New Zealand, authorities said on Friday.
Boochani arrived in New Zealand about eight months ago to speak at a literary festival, and has stayed in Christchurch country despite his visitor visa expiring.
Boochani has been recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee and its 1967 Protocol, Fiona Whiteridge, Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ)
general manager for refugee and migrant Services, told Reuters in an email statement.
“For legal and privacy reasons, INZ is unable to provide any further comment,” Whiteridge added.
Boochani did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment, but he spoke to The Guardian earlier and said: “I am very happy some certainty about my future, I feel relieved and secure finally”.
Boochani was held on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Manus Island after being plucked from a refugee boat on its way to Australia in 2013.
Boochani has been a prominent critic of the treatment of people under Australia’s hardline immigration policy.
He described his journey and the conditions in detention in his book, “No Friends but the Mountains”, written on his phone and sent via Whatsapp to a publisher in Australia. The book won one of Australia’s top literary prizes this year.
The Green Party, a coalition partner in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government, welcomed the news.
“Today we celebrate New Zealand as a place where fairness and compassion prevails”, Green Party spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said in a statement.
Asylum seekers intercepted at sea by Australian authorities are sent to Manus or the South Pacific island of Nauru, where many have languished for years. They are permanently barred from settling in Australia.
New Zealand’s Ardern has made a longstanding offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Australia’s offshore camps, but the Australian government has not taken up the request.
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