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9 Dec 2019 9:31
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Behrouz Boochani may seek asylum in New Zealand and will campaign for PNG detainees' freedom

    The Kurdish journalist and refugee says he may ask for asylum in New Zealand and has blasted Australia's offshore processing system.


    Kurdish journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani says he may seek asylum in New Zealand rather than resettle in the United States as recently agreed.

    Mr Boochani landed in New Zealand on Thursday night on a visitor's visa to speak at the Word Literary Festival in Christchurch about his award-winning book, No Friend But The Mountains.

    He was in PNG for more than six years after being sent there as part of Australia's offshore processing scheme.

    Mr Boochani was given temporary travel documents and permission from the PNG Immigration Department to travel to New Zealand. Before he left, he told the ABC he did not intend to return to PNG.

    Mr Boochani was met by a crowd at the Christchurch airport, receiving a traditional welcome by the local Maori Iwi, or tribe, Ngai Tahu, which Mr Boochani described as a "great moment" after travelling for more than 30 hours via the Philippines so as to avoid coming through Australia.

    When asked whether he intended to claim asylum in New Zealand, Mr Boochani said he was considering extending his visa.

    "I have a visa for a month, but I'm not really going to talk about it," he said.

    "I want to be free for a while.

    "I want spend my time as a free man."

    NZ over Australia

    Mr Boochani flew out of Port Moresby on Wednesday morning, with his journey to New Zealand via the Philippines taking more than 30 hours.

    At a press conference after his arrival, Mr Boochani spoke about how his freedom gave him space to reflect.

    "For the first time, I was thinking about this — that I survive," he said.

    "When I was in Manus or in Port Moresby, I didn't think about this, just I was thinking about … getting freedom.

    "I think it is the first time that I feel that I'm happy because I survived."

    Later on Friday, in an interview aired on ABC News, Mr Boochani turned his attention to the Australian Government, heavily criticising its offshore processing system, and saying "he did not trust" the Australian Government.

    "I think the short way to reach New Zealand was to book tickets and go to Australia and stay there for two hours and then fly to New Zealand but we choose the different way," Mr Boochani said.

    "I didn't feel safe and I did not trust the Australian Government and I think they are not happy I am here [in New Zealand]."

    "Australia refuse to accept people and I think they do not have this right to make this decision," Mr Boochani said.

    "The whole immigration system in Australia is big discrimination. Many people who came to Australia with us by boat, they are in Australia right now, which is good, but they don't let others.

    "It is against international convention — I don't know how long Australia is going to keep this bad, bad policy."

    Mr Boochani then encouraged other asylum seekers to bypass Australia and look to make a new life for themselves in New Zealand.

    "The Australian Government say that people use New Zealand as a backdoor [to then moving to Australia] — it is a big lie," he said.

    "New Zealand is a great country and people will start a new life here, they are not interested to go to Australia.

    Call for NZ to act

    While in New Zealand, Mr Boochani told RN's Geraldine Doogue from Christchurch, he had a "great opportunity" to raise the issue of detainees being held in PNG and said he would ask the New Zealand Government to negotiate with Papua New Guinea to release detainees from Manus Island.

    "I really would like to ask the New Zealand Government to have a negotiation with PNG and Nauru directly," he said.

    "Australia cannot make decisions for others."

    His book, written via text message, won Australia's richest literary prize, the Victorian Premier's Prize for Literature.

    The ABC understands about 260 refugees and non-refugees remain in PNG, and the overwhelming majority have been moved to Port Moresby, in order to bring an end to asylum seeker processing on Manus.

    New Zealand has a longstanding offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Australia's offshore camps, but the Australian Government has not taken up the request.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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