New Zealand / Auckland Region

Manus Island refugee Behrouz Boochani lands in Auckland

23:22 pm on 14 November 2019

An award-winning author detained on Manus Island by Australia for six years has touched down in Auckland.

Behrouz Boochani Photo: Behrouz Boochani / Hoda Afshar

It's the first time Iranian-Kurdish writer, film-maker and refugee Behrouz Boochani has left Papua New Guinea since 2013.

Mr Boochani - who is in New Zealand on a visitor's visa for a literary festival - wrote the book No Friend but the Mountains on a smartphone app while imprisoned on the island.

He's an outspoken human rights defender critical of Australia's detention policy and the treatment of refugees.

New Zealand has repeatedly offered to resettle 150 refugees a year from the offshore detention centres but has been rebuffed.

Mr Boochani said in a statement he wants the government here to do more to help the hundreds who remain in PNG.

The Manus Island centre officially closed in 2017, but 250 of the 1500 detainees remain in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Boochani's book won multiple international awards, including Australia's richest literary prize.

WORD programme director Rachael King said it was an honour to welcome him.

"His story is powerful, his resilience is extraordinary, and his words have moved and rallied people around the world. That his book has brought him here is testament to the power of literature as an agent for change."

Mr Boochani said: "Christchurch is a city that has already educated the world by leading through kindness and humanity in response to the terrorist attacks earlier this year. I am very grateful that I have been welcomed by this city and have this opportunity to share ideas."

Amnesty executive director Meg de Ronde said Mr Boochani was "not only a refugee but a human rights defender whose dedicated journalism from within a detention centre earned him several awards and accolades".

"He is a voice for truth and we can't wait to welcome him here. Seeing him arrive will be very moving," she said.

"This is a spark of hope after he has fled violence and persecution, first in Iran and then from Australian authorities."