Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian refugee, arrived at Auckland Airport on the 14th of November 2019 after being held in detention centres on Manus Island and in Papua New Guinea by the Australian government for six years.

After fleeing his own country due to persecution, Boochani entered onto an old, overcrowded boat, dreaming of a better future for himself. However, his journey to freedom has been filled with pain and suffering at the hands of the Australian government. The detention centres breed violence causes severe physical and mental health issues and suffocate the lives of many. During his time in the detention centres, he used the messaging application WhatsApp to transfer texts to a translator, forming the basis of his autobiography, ‘No friend but the mountains’ which was released in 2018.

Boochani was rejected by the Australian government and placed into the detention centres. No negotiations were made. No leniency was presented by the government and no capacity for change was ever discussed. Australia’s refugee policy has been stagnant, and it must start to change.

The New Zealand Government’s decision to approve the entry of Mr Boochani into their nation demonstrates the government’s leadership. It highlights their recognition of refugees as individuals deserving safety, freedom and dignity.

New Zealand’s leadership must translate to the Australian government. Currently, the repealing of the Medevac bill (allowing for the transfer of refugees from detention centres to Australia for urgent medical treatment) is being debated in the government. The basis of repealing this law continues with the consistent fear campaign that government ministers have exclaimed for years. However, every consequence which they thought would occur due to the Medevac bill has not happened.

Our public hospitals have not been filled with asylum seekers. Boats have not been coming back to Australian shores. Yet, Department of Home and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claims that asylum seekers are self-harm to gain entry into Australia when we are holding them hostage with no possibility of freedom. We are imposing these conditions on the refugees.

Although Boochani is now free, many continue to suffer in detention centres. Boochani bluntly stated that “the Australian governments should get out of the way and let these people be free”. This is not a radical thought. This is a logical statement. Even if Australia doesn’t want to settle the remaining refugees, New Zealand has offered to receive 150 of them.

Once again, I am falling into the trap of calling refugees, ‘them’. Refugees are individual people who have different stories, opinions, ideas, perspectives and lives. Refugees are family, friends, faces, humans. We can change society’s attitudes to refugees because although refugees don’t have a choice, you do.

11 thoughts on “Behrouz Boochani: A rejected refugee teaching us all a lesson

  1. Hi Levine, this is a fantastic post on Behrouz Boochani. Your blog seems to be very interesting too. Thank you for advocating for people seeking asylum. Boochani is a representative, a public figure, but there’s still so many people in the need of help. NZ have rejected his asylum claims, so Boochani’s struggle is also not finished just yet. We all need to keep putting the pressure and change the minds of those who are still confused or misinformed about people seeking asylum. Once again, thanks for inviting me to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words of encouragement, I really appreciate it and I am glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, we need to continue our fight for refugees. Australia is currently debating a key piece of legislation regarding the healthcare of refugees, and hopefully, the decision is made with their best interest at heart.

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  2. Defining Us as not Them is an old right wing strategy which always seems to work. The latest federal election result and Labor’s complicity in Dutton’s fascism seem to leave us nowhere to go. Boochani’s amazing courage and amazing book remind us that we must persevere. Let’s hope that NZ doesn’t back down, as it looks like it might, and Boochani is permitted to stay beyond the one month of his visitors visa.

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    1. I completely agree with you. It was disappointing to see New Zealand almost backtracking on their words and actions. What we really need is a cultrual shift on the opinions of refugees. There is a negative connotation associated with the word and this means that any potential talk about taking in refugees is considered a crime. That cultural shift must start at the top with passionate and courageous leaders. I hope we see this someday soon.

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  3. Unfortunately, Boochani isn’t quite free – the headlines are misleading. NZ has granted him a one-month visa. When it expires he has to leave. Where he will go and what he will do is uncertain. There is talk of him going to the US to be resettled there as part of the “refugee swap” the Australian Government negotiated with the US Government, but that was on the understanding that Boochani is based on Manus/PNG. Boochani has said he will NOT go back to Manus/PNG so that will effectively “break” that agreement with the US Govt. I fear for this man’s safety and state of mind. He is stateless and the Australian Government is too heartless to offer him permanent residency here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the story has been developing of the recent days and I am disappointed that the leadership of New Zealand hasn’t been consistent. However, with all the media attention I can understand why the decision is difficult. Hopefully he can find permanent residence and continue to fight for the people who are still stuck on Manu Island and Nauru.

      Would you encourage Australia to increase its refugee intake or foreign aid spending?

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