Refugee writer slams Australia for 9-year delay on refugee deal

A renowned Iranian writer-turned-refugee described on Thursday Landmark refugee agreement between New Zealand and Australia as an achievement for refugees, people fighting for civil societies and for New Zealand.

A nearly decade-old New Zealand offer to resettle 150 refugees a year from Australia was accepted on Thursday, nine years after it was first offered by the New Zealand government.

This means that 150 refugees residing either in Nauru or temporarily in Australia under regional processing will be able to come to New Zealand each year for three years.

They will also need to meet the requirements of the New Zealand refugee quota program and be referred to New Zealand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

READ MORE: Nauru asylum seeker ‘shaken’ by New Zealand-Australia refugee deal

Behrouz Boochani fled Iran to Australia in 2013 to avoid persecution in his home country for his journalism, only to spend six years in an offshore detention center.

He recorded his experience writing the award-winning book No Friend but the Mountains on the WhatsApp smartphone app while he was detained by Australian authorities at the Papua New Guinea Detention Centre.

In 2019 he was released and came to New Zealand, where he was granted refugee status in 2020.

He described the deal as “big news” and a long wait for refugees stuck in purgatory in offshore detention centres.

“I consider this a success story. A success story for refugees, a success story for the civil society that people have been fighting for for many years, and also a success story for New Zealand,” Boochani told 1News.

“It gives a positive and beautiful image of New Zealand and it’s also a lesson for Australia.”

Boochani said New Zealand was “a good place” where refugees were supported – a stark contrast to his view of Australia, which he said had invented a “political lie” accusing refugees of wanting to use the New Zealand as a back door to gain residency in Australia.

“Why would people who come here want to go to Australia? Boochani said.

“It was a big political lie. It’s normal in Australian political culture to say such things.

“I’m sure that when the refugees come here [to New Zealand] they will be able to found a new life and they will be happy.”

The 150 places are part of New Zealand’s annual admission of 1,500 refugees – which New Zealand has not completed and is unlikely to achieve full admission by the middle of this year.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said he hoped to see some of the refugees arrive in New Zealand by the end of the year.