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‘It’s enough’: Behrouz Boochani calls for decision on New Zealand resettlement offer

Former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani says the Australian government should urgently accept an offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 offshore refugees, many of who have spent eight years in immigration detention.

The renewed calls come as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the government was in ongoing discussions with her New Zealand counterpart about resettlement options for several hundred refugees who were previously held in detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

New Zealand first offered to accept 150 refugees from offshore detention in 2013. Since then, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly said the offer remains on the table.

New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi told SBS News on Wednesday the offer “still stands”. 

“Any consideration to accept the New Zealand offer is a good sign, but they should do it faster, the process should be fast … because eight years is too many,” Mr Boochani, 37, told SBS News from New Zealand, where he now lives after spending six years in detention.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.


“It’s enough, that is a really simple message we can send to the Australian government.” 

Mr Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and writer, was among hundreds of men detained on Manus Island after fleeing persecution in Iran. 

According to the latest government figures, 239 asylum seekers remain in Nauru and in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, after Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island was shut down. 

More than 1,200 more “transitory persons” remain in limbo in on-shore detention and in the Australian community after being transferred to the mainland.

The government has barred any asylum seeker who arrived in Australia by boat from remaining permanently in the country. 

“Everyone knows that these refugees have been traumatised under this system for eight years,” Mr Boochani said. “It’s really difficult to say something or even write about it … as an individual, as a person, as someone who experienced this system.”

On Wednesday, Ms Andrews told 4BC radio the government was continuing discussions with New Zealand to work “through the issues” regarding resettlement options, which included ensuring there was no “backdoor way for these individuals to be able to go to New Zealand and then return to Australia”.

“We’re doing all that we can to work through resettlement options for them,” Ms Andrews said.

“We clearly want to do that as soon as we possibly can.”

Mr Faafoi said officials “continue to explore how this might be implemented”.  

“Any refugees considered for resettlement in New Zealand would undergo the same comprehensive assessment and screening that New Zealand applies to all refugees accepted under our Refugee Quota Programme,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Timeframes for any resettlement would be dependent on those processes.”

Mr Boochani said the government’s concern that a resettlement deal would create a back door pathway to Australia was ridiculous because “the refugees just want to reach a safe country to start a new life”.

“That doesn’t make sense that the government has said for many years that these people want to come to Australia,” he said. “I am in New Zealand now, I don’t want to go to Australia now. Why should I go to Australia?”.

The confirmation that discussions on the issue were continuing comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison travelled to New Zealand city of Queenstown earlier this week for meetings with Ms Ardern. 

In a statement on Wednesday, a home affairs department spokesperson said Australia’s position on the offer had not changed and they remained focused on the ongoing resettlement arrangement with the United States.

But Amnesty International’s refugee coordinator Graham Thorn said the comments were a significant departure from the government’s previous statements on the issue, describing it as cause for optimism.

“It’s very positive that they are now looking at New Zealand as well, that they’re openly admitting it, and that the refugees that have been left behind after the United States deal actually have a legitimate alternative,” he said.

“What we do want to see is a commitment and a timeframe behind it”.

As of March this year, 929 refugees from Papua New Guinea, Nauru and the mainland had been resettled in the United States under a refugee swap deal struck during the Obama administration.

At the time, a further 256 had been provisionally accepted for resettlement. 

Mr Boochani, who authored a book about life in detention while on Manus Island, was granted refugee status in New Zealand after arriving on a visitor’s visa to speak at a literary festival in 2019.

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