Former Manus detainee Behrouz Boochani has taken aim at the federal government and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as speculation mounts about his asylum status in New Zealand.
Kurdish-Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani said comments made by Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, barring him from entering Australia, “make no sense”.
Mr Dutton in November said Boochani “wouldn't be permitted to come to Australia”, following a move by New Zealand to grant the author and journalist a one-month visa to attend a literary conference.
Boochani is now living in New Zealand, after six years in detention on Manus Island, but it’s not yet known whether he plans to claim asylum in the country.
“I didn’t hear [Dutton’s] comments, but I never said that I want to go to Australia, we never said that,” he said.
“We [asylum seekers] just said let us go, and I think that doesn’t make sense, for someone to tell me that ‘you never come to Australia’. It is like someone from Russia telling me that ‘you never come to Russia’. That doesn’t make sense.
“Of course, I have lots of good friends in Australia, and I have worked with Australian people for years and years, and I’m still working with [Australian] people.”
Boochani has remained tight-lipped about what he plans to do in the future. Immigration New Zealand told SBS Kurdish that it was “unable to comment” on his visa status due to “privacy and legal reasons”.
“INZ can neither confirm nor deny whether we have received any claim for asylum from any person, as section 151 of the Immigration Act 2009 requires INZ to keep all refugee and protection claims confidential,” a spokesperson said.
Book to film
Planning is underway on a feature film based on Boochani's book, No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison, which documents his time spent in detention on Manus Island.
Production for the film is slated to begin in mid-2021, and it’s intended to be shot mainly in Australia.
Boochani said the film provided an important tool to communicate in various languages and would be pivotal to bring more attention to Australia’s immigration detention regime.
“This story is not my story. My story is only a part of the story. In this movie, the main aim is to share the whole story, and what the Australian government has done on Manus Island and Nauru.
“Unfortunately it still continues, and still this policy remains, and hundreds of people remain in PNG and Nauru.
“The good thing with this project is that we can tell this story on an international and global level, and I think that is important. Because this story doesn’t only belong to Australia. My perspective is always a global perspective because what the Australian government has done is not only damage Australia but [this policy has] become a model for other countries.”
Boochani’s book was typed out on a contraband mobile phone via WhatsApp in Farsi and later translated.
He said that filming the movie in Australia “shows that Australia cannot walk away from this story and that the government is responsible”.
“Through lots of artistic projects, I and other refugees have been in Australia. We have never set foot on Australian land, but on the other hand, we have been there, and we exist through artistic work and through our residence."
Boochani said while in New Zealand, he has worked on “many projects” which are not related to Manus Island.
“I don’t want to be stuck in Manus. But on the other hand, there are still people there and I continue to do advocacy for people, I do my best to help them and share my understanding and ideas.
“These days I work with people in the European countries, the book is now released in more than 20 countries.”
Listen to SBS Kurdish interview with Behrouz Boochani below: