Manus refugee and author Behrouz Boochani arrives in Christchurch

WELLINGTON, Jule Scherer (dpa)- Kurdish writer, film-maker and former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani arrived in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday where he criticized Australia's detention policy and the treatment of refugees.
"Australia, when they exiled us to Manus they always talk about us [refugees] in a way that we are dangerous people, we are rapist people, we are, you know, criminals, this kind of hate speech," he told media in Christchurch.

Behrouz Boochani
Behrouz Boochani

The outspoken author who spent the last six years detained by Australian authorities in Papua New Guinea said the refugees educated Australia with their peaceful resistance. 
"Australia says that 'we are saving lives on the ocean,' which is a big lie. They are torturing people, killing people and decided 'oh we saved their lives'," he added.  
Boochani, an investigative journalist in his homeland of Iran, who was persecuted for his reporting and his support for Kurdish independence, is in Christchurch to take part in a literature festival later this month. 
He said he would not apply for asylum in New Zealand for now as he had just been accepted for resettlement in the United States but hoped to extend his stay in the Pacific country.
After his arrival at Auckland Airport Thursday night, he told reporters this was the first time he had felt happy in a long time.
"I survived, you know, when I was in Manus or Port Moresby. I was just thinking about getting freedom ... affect Australia, challenge Australia, make people aware of this situation,” he told Radio New Zealand.  “But I think it's the first time that I feel happy because I survived."
Australia’s Labor Party welcomed the news Behrouz Boochani had left Papua New Guinea.
“We look forward for Mr Boochani having the opportunity to permanently resettle in a third country as soon as possible, wherever that may be,” Senator Kristina Keneally  said in a statement. 
The party had been calling on the government to resettle eligible refugees in PNG and Nauru for close to six years, Keneally said.
Boochani travelled to New Zealand with the help of the UN refugee agency UNHCR and sponsored by Amnesty International.
"Behrouz is not only a refugee, but a human rights defender whose dedicated journalism from within a detention centre earned him several awards and accolades," Amnesty International's Meg de Ronde said in a statement.
Boochani also won several literature prizes for his book "No Friend but the Mountains", chronicling the harrowing experiences of Australia’s offshore detention regime, which he wrote on a smartphone app while imprisoned on Manus island.
“For Behrouz to be able to appear at WORD Christchurch, it’s a testament to the human will to survive," de Ronde said. "Like thousands of others trapped in the cruelty of offshore detention, he simply wants freedom in a safe place."
Human rights abuses and severe mental health trauma remained a daily reality for those still stuck in Papua New Guinea and Manus Island, she added. 
“Around 500 refugees and asylum seekers remain in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, countries that cannot protect their liberty, safety and security.
"These people were forced to flee persecution – and after nearly seven years, hundreds are still waiting for their freedom," she said. 
Australia has repeatedly refused New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees annually from its offshore processing centres. While the Manus Island centre was closed in late 2017 hundreds refugees remain in Papua New Guinea. 

Friday, November 15th 2019
Jule Scherer (dpa)

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