Behrouz Boochani, the refugee who shared the stories of the men detained by Australia on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for over six years, is finally free.
Boochani landed in New Zealand on Thursday evening.
“I will never go back to PNG or Australian immigration detention,” he told the Guardian.
The Kurdish Iranian journalist was sent to Manus after he fled persecution in his home country and made his way to Australia by boat.
Australia’s hardline policy, announced while Labor was in government in 2013 and maintained by the Coalition, was to never allow refugees who arrived by boat to settle in Australia. Hundreds of men, women and children were sent to island detention centres on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea for years as a result.
Boochani was the most prominent of the Manus detainees, and for many, he was the voice of those held offshore.
He wrote regularly for The Guardian and other outlets, and used Twitter to share details of events in detention. In 2018 he published an award-winning book, No Friend But the Mountains, about his life on Manus. The book was written over WhatsApp, Boochani typing out sections on his mobile phone and messaging them to a translator.
He has a one-month visa to stay in New Zealand, where he will appear at Christchurch’s Word Festival.
The Guardian reported that Boochani has been accepted for resettlement in the US, under the deal struck between Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull, but that he was concerned the process was moving too slowly.
Boochani has said that if his journey to New Zealand means he can no longer go to the US, he will look at other possibilities, like applying for asylum in Europe.
More than 600 refugees have so far been settled in the US. More than 1,000 have also been sent to Australia for medical treatment.
New Zealand has offered to take in people held on Nauru and Manus. Australia has repeatedly refused the offer, arguing it would provide a backdoor entry to Australia.
Although all children have been released from offshore detention, 562 people remained on Nauru and in PNG at the end of September.
Almost 50 men are detained incommunicado in Bomana Immigration Centre in Port Moresby.