CAIRNS, Australia — Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian refugee and writer who documented abuses under Australia’s tough immigration policies during his yearslong detention on a remote Pacific island, has been granted asylum in New Zealand.
Mr. Boochani has spent the past several months in Christchurch, where he applied for refugee status after being given a temporary visa to attend a writers’ festival last November.
On Thursday — which was also Mr. Boochani’s 37th birthday, and exactly seven years since he was first detained on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea — he received official notification that his application for a one-year working visa in New Zealand had been successful.
Mr. Boochani said he planned to apply for permanent residency, which is a pathway to citizenship. “It’s like the end of a chapter of my life,” he said, adding that his news was bittersweet because he feared for those still being detained by the Australian authorities.
Under the Australian government’s strict policies for those who attempt to reach the country by boat, thousands of people, many from the Middle East and Africa, have been detained indefinitely on Manus and the island nation of Nauru. “The policy exists, and so that’s why it’s really difficult to fully enjoy this,” he said.
Mr. Boochani said that the vast differences in the way he had been treated by the Australian and New Zealand authorities revealed a chasm in their leadership on human rights.
“We ask people in the international community to look at this country, to look at Australia and what they have done and what they are doing,” he said, adding that he hoped others in detention would also eventually be given asylum. “They must release them.”
Mr. Boochani, who formerly worked as a journalist with the Kurdish-language magazine Werya, fled Iran in 2013 after the police arrested several of his colleagues and raided his office. He spent a few months in Indonesia before trying to travel to Australia by boat, but he was intercepted by the Australian Navy and sent to Manus Island.
There, he documented human rights abuses against himself and others, raising awareness of the squalid conditions and deteriorating mental health of the men he lived with — many of whom had fled persecution in their home countries.
Mr. Boochani’s posts on social media, which detailed self-harm and suicides by detainees, as well as inadequate access to health care, helped expose policies that had largely been obscured by extremely limited access to the camps for journalists and activists.
In early 2019, Mr. Boochani was awarded Australia’s highest-paying literary prize for his book “No Friend but the Mountains,” which was written entirely via WhatsApp. It further detailed abuses in the camps, cementing him as a voice for those who had largely been silenced by Australia’s strict policies. He could not attend the awards ceremony because of his detainment.
In November, he received a visitor visa to New Zealand in order to attend the WORD literary festival in Christchurch. He has been living there since, working as a researcher with the University of Canterbury.