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New Zealand: ’A long chapter’ ends: Behrouz Boochani granted asylum in New Zealand

Friday 24 July 2020, by siawi3


’A long chapter’ ends: Behrouz Boochani granted asylum in New Zealand

Cate Broughton and Lee Kenny

July 24, 2020 — 10.35am

Wellington: Eight months after arriving in New Zealand, acclaimed author Behrouz Boochani has been granted refugee status.

The Kurdish-Iranian writer joins a small group of successful applicants. Having refugee status means he can stay in New Zealand indefinitely and can apply for a resident’s visa.

PhotoPho: Refugee Behrouz Boochani arrived in New Zealand in November for a writers’ festival.Amnesty International

When Boochani left Papua New Guinea – where he was detained for six years after attempting to enter Australia – ABC reported he had been accepted for resettlement in the United States.

He travelled to New Zealand for a writers’ festival in Christchurch in November, on a one-month visa supported by Amnesty International NZ, and has lived in the city while seeking asylum.

His award-winning book, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison made him the toast of the literary world and former prime minister Helen Clark was among the thousands of people to welcome him via Twitter.

Video: Refugee activists protest on the rooftop of the Preston hotel - 1:17
Medevac detainees are being housed at the hotel where activists are protesting on the rooftop.

In Christchurch, he was greeted by Mayor Lianne Dalziel. He has been active on Twitter and has appeared via video-link at Newcastle Writers Festival in Australia and British event Refugee Tales.

Boochani fled Iran in 2013 fearing persecution. In July of that year he reached Indonesia and boarded a boat for Australia but the vessel was intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy and Boochani was incarcerated at a refugee centre on Manus Island.

Boochani said the granting of refugee status marked the end of a chapter of his life.

“...a long chapter in which I was involved in a long struggle against a barbaric policy, against this system that exiled innocent people and kept people in indefinite detention for a long time.”

Photo: Behrouz Boochani has been in NZ on a one-month visitor’s visa since November.Alex Ellinghausen

"But of course fighting continues, so I look at it in this way, but of course it’s very important that now I have some certainty about my future, so now I feel stronger, I feel stable to continue to work here.”

Boochani has been awarded a role as an adjunct senior research fellowship with the Ngai Tahu Research Centre at the University of Canterbury.

“My work is not just about refugees, it is about minorities, migration, identity... academic work and journalism is my whole career.”

During his six years in detention on Manus Island Boochani became an outspoken critic of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Now he intends to continue that “fight”.

Refugees to New Zealand who have achieved acclaim include Golriz Ghahraman, New Zealand’s first MP from a refugee background, Rez Gardi who was named Young New Zealander of the Year 2017 and Eliana Rubashkyn, who was forced to leave Colombia because of the violence towards trans and intersex people.

Refugee Status

Applications for refugee and protection status in New Zealand increased from 287 in 2013-14 to 510 in 2018-19 and between 2010 and 2020 they were made by people from more than 45 nationalities.

Of those, 496 were Chinese nationals, 259 were Indian and 237 were Sri Lankan.

Related Article: Australia’s barbaric policy confronted by Boochani’s prison memoir

Many claimants were from places of conflict – such as Syria (72 claims) and Afghanistan (121 claims) – while some were from wealthy European countries, such as Switzerland (5 claims) and Germany (7 claims).

During the last 10 years, 237 claims were made by people from Boochani’s home country of Iran.

During 2019-20, 342 asylum cases were assessed by INZ, 124 were approved.

Common reasons to decline a claim are: it may not be credible or facts “do not establish the person faces a risk of harm that would trigger New Zealand’s international protection obligations”.

Unsuccessful asylum applicants can appeal to the independent Immigration and Protection Tribunal, however, of the 136 appeals made in 2019, 79 were dismissed.

Related Article: Refugee activists on the roof of the Mantra hotel in Preston on Tuesday.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed there were 25 hearing between January 1 and May 29 this year and of those, 16 appeals were dismissed. No Immigration and Protection Tribunal cases were held between March 12 and May 4 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Dismissed appeals include:

– A couple from China who feared harm due to their breach of the family planning laws

– A Colombian woman who said she was in danger after refusing to pay protection money to a paramilitary group

– A German woman who believed she was under surveillance by state intelligence agencies

– An Indian couple and their daughter who claimed to be at risk from the wife’s family due to their inter-caste marriage

Between 2016 and 2019, INZ spent $NZ3.9 million ($3.6 million) on deportations, this included declined asylum claimants.

Between 2015 and 2020, 1371 residence visas were granted under the Refugee Family Support Resident Visa scheme, with almost one third from people from Afghanistan.