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Kurdish-Iranian author held for 6 years granted asylum in New Zealand

Kurdish-Iranian author held for 6 years granted asylum in New Zealand”

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed that Behrouz Boochani has been given refugee status in New Zealand.

His account of his plight won numerous awards, including Australia's richest literary honour, the Victorian Prize for Literature.

Boochani has been recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee and its 1967 Protocol, Fiona Whiteridge from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) told Reuters. The date is significant - it marks his 37th birthday and seven years since he was placed on a naval ship while attempting to reach Australia.

So, I think it's very interesting that finally I touch New Zealand, you know, after years. "But of course my story is only a part of this whole story", he told CNN from Christchurch.

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.

Australia has a controversial policy of intercepting asylum seekers at sea and putting them in off-shore detention centers, where they are permanently barred from settling in Australia.

BEHROUZ BOOCHANI: I am happy that now I have certainty about my future.

"Which was surprising given the high profile nature of Boochani and the fact that the Australian foreign minister said that Boochani would never set foot in Australia".

More news: N Korea reports 'suspected' COVID case in returned defector

While the numbers of asylum-seekers being held in offshore detention camps by Australia has been significantly reduced over the years, Boochani said there are still hundreds being kept in limbo on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, as well as within Australia.

He eventually used his phone to write his book, sending snippets in Farsi to a translator over the messaging app WhatsApp.

Boochani could not collect his award or the prize money of 125,000 Australian dollars ($89,000) in person because he was still confined to Manus.

Following the closure of the Manus Island centre in 2017, Boochani and his fellow detainees were moved to refugee transit centres near the island's main town of Lorengau, and later, to the country's capital Port Moresby.

"We welcome Behrouz wholeheartedly - he has faced persecution and torture at the hands of Iran's Islamic regime and whilst imprisoned on Manus Island, it is well overdue that he had a place where he is safe to put down roots".

Boochani is now working as a researcher at Canterbury University in the South Island city of Christchurch.

One thorny issue could be whether Boochani is ever allowed to visit Australia.

He says he will be applying for permanent residency in New Zealand. "No, I am here".



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