Finally free after six years on Manus Island, Kurdish-Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani has surfaced in New Zealand, but faces an uncertain future.
Boochani arrived in Auckland on Thursday night, ending his long detention in Australia’s offshore processing system.
His passage from Papua New Guinea was secured after accepting an invitation to speak at a Christchurch writers’ festival this month.
After labelling Australia a dictatorship on Friday, the author and journalist said he’d seek an extension to his New Zealand stay.
Immigration New Zealand insist under the terms of his current visa, he must depart within one month.
Boochani has vowed not to return to PNG.
“I will never go back to that place,” he told The Guardian.
A recognised UN convention refugee accepted for settlement in the US, he is yet to decide on his long-term plans.
“In the next couple of weeks I will look at the possibilities and I will make a decision to seek asylum here or go to America,” he later told the ABC.
Boochani announced his exit on Thursday night, tweeting that it was “So exciting to get freedom after more than six years”.
He was welcomed by Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel on Friday morning before speaking at a Word Christchurch event alongside Amnesty International and Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman, herself an Iranian refugee.
“I’m really happy that I am here in Christchurch,” Boochani said.
“Almost seven years ago I left Iran because of my journalism and cultural activities.
“I went to Australia to seek asylum there, to find a safe place. I knew Australia as a liberal democracy.
“I expected that they would welcome me and at least consider my case.
“Unfortunately they exiled me to Manus Island, a remote place. In other words, I can say I left Iran because I didn’t want to live in prison but Australia jailed me.”
Boochani arrived by boat on Christmas Island in July 2013 and was sent to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea a month later.
While in detention, Boochani wrote a book, ‘No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison’, which won this year’s Victorian Prize for Literature and the National Biography Award – Australia’s richest literary prize.
He also filmed a documentary of life in the Manus centre on a mobile phone, which has been seen in Australia, London and Berlin.
Boochani’s took a 34-hour journey to New Zealand via The Philippines because he said he didn’t trust the Australian government to let him transit through the most direct route.
While not mentioning him by name, Boochani eviscerated Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
“We can see there is some kind of dictatorship in Australia,” he said.
Greg Patchell, deputy chief executive of Immigration New Zealand, said Boochani held travel documents from PNG which allowed him to come and go from PNG.
“He is in New Zealand on a one month limited visa for the specific purpose of speaking at a conference in Christchurch. He must depart before his visa expires,” he told AAP.
“He is fully sponsored by Amnesty International who are responsible for meeting all his costs.
“If he claims asylum in New Zealand, an independent statutory process decides his claim. Government ministers have no role in this process.”
Mr Patchell said the visa was issued because officials were satisfied Boochani “genuinely intends a temporary stay in New Zealand”.
Originally published as Boochani lands in NZ, uncertain on future