Journalist held as asylum seeker on Manus Island arrives in New Zealand - 'I am happy because I survived'

After almost six years being held on Manus Island as an asylum seeker, Behrouz Boochani stepped through the gates at Auckland Airport last night a free man.

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Mr Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian man, is known worldwide for his reporting on human rights. Source: Breakfast

The Kurdish-Iranian journalist is known worldwide for his reporting on human rights abuses within the Australian Government's refugee detention centres.

He's been granted a visitor visa to appear at a special WORD Christchurch event next week where he will speak about his book.

In talking about the enormity of the situation he was in, he said, "for the first time I was thinking about this, that I survived you know".

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Award-winning author detained at Manus Island for six years arrives in NZ to call on Government for help

"When I was in Manus or Port Moseby I didn't think about this. I was just thinking about getting freedom.

"I think it is the first time that I feel that I am happy because I survived."

Boochani wrote award-winning book No Friend but the Mountains on smartphone app WhatsApp while held by Australian authorities at the Papua New Guinea detention centre.

The book has won multiple international awards, including Australia’s Victorian Prize for Literature in 2019.

The upcoming visit will be the first time Mr Boochani has been able to leave Papua New Guinea since he was detained in 2013.

In a statement, Word Christchurch director Rachael King said the organisation was "delighted to finally be in a position to welcome" the author after months of planning.

"His story is powerful, his resilience is extraordinary, and his words have moved and rallied people around the world. That his book has brought him here is testament to the power of literature as an agent for change," she said.

Before leaving Port Moresby for New Zealand, Mr Boochani said in a statement, "I think it is very important that we share this story with the people of New Zealand.

"Christchurch is a city that has already educated the world by leading through kindness and humanity in response to the terrorist attacks earlier this year. I am very grateful that I have been welcomed by this city and have this opportunity to share ideas. Christchurch already proves that dividing society is a dangerous threat to unity and democracy.

"I will be in New Zealand while still more than 200 people remain in Port Moresby and 200 in Nauru. Among these people still there are 50 innocent people who remain indefinitely detained at Bomana prison.

"I am here to warn against this kind of system, which is designed to deter refugees from seeking asylum and ultimately has caused grave harm and torture. I am here to ask New Zealand the Government to take a leadership [role] and allow those who remain in PNG and Nauru to find safety."

Green Party spokesperson for human rights Golriz Ghahraman, herself a refugee, has praised the author's arrival.

"New Zealand has long stood for fairness and inclusion for people fleeing war and persecution, and I hope whilst in New Zealand he experiences some reprieve from his time as a Manus detainee," she said this evening in a statement.

Word worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help facilitate Mr Boochani's departure and helped secure a visa for the event.

Behrouz Boochani: Writing From Manus Prison will be held on November 29 as part of an event for Word Christchurch.