July 24, 2020 / 12:33 AM / 23 days ago

Kurdish writer held in offshore Australian camp granted refugee status in NZ

WELLINGTON, July 24 (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 the 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, a Kurdish Iranian, 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.

Asylum seekers intercepted at sea are sent for “processing” in PNG and on the South Pacific island of Nauru, where many have languished for years. They are permanently barred from settling in Australia.

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. (Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)

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