After seven years in Papua New Guinea, at last Behrouz Boochani is free from the torment he has suffered under Australia’s abusive offshore immigration detention program.
Boochani, the author of 'No Friend But The Mountains', winner of the National Biography Award, has been given a reprieve by the New Zealand Government. As Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator for the independent organisation, Amnesty International Australia, writes:
I was there to meet him at the airport last night in Auckland. It was a scene of jubilation.
I have known Behrouz personally for most of the time he was held on Manus, so to see him reach safety, amongst friends, is difficult to describe. I can only imagine how he is feeling. Amnesty International and many other partners have worked very hard to make this dream a reality.
Yet we cannot rest until every single person Australia has kept in exile offshore in Papua New Guinea and Nauru is safe. Behrouz arriving in New Zealand illustrates the bizarre hypocrisy of the Australian Government’s decision to block vulnerable refugees trapped for seven years from getting to freedom. We have worked tirelessly with partners to help refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea to get to the USA, Canada, Switzerland and other places in Europe. There are alternatives. Australia must accept all the offers generously made to get these people to safety. New Zealand has offered to take 150 refugees a year, which could help more than half those that remain trapped in Papua New Guinea. Amnesty has witnessed first hand the suffering on both Manus and Nauru. It is imperative to get people off these islands without delay. As Behrouz said recently of those trapped on Nauru and in PNG: ... what is unfolding [offshore] is a human tragedy. It is a humanitarian crisis, and it is getting increasingly more dangerous as the days go by. In order to move beyond this critical situation only one option exists: that is for the Australian government to abide by the international laws which it is obligated to; it must acknowledge the human rights of refugees. There is no other way to act on this but to free the innocent human beings who they have tortured systematically for years.
Despite the billions of dollars Australia has spent to keep vulnerable refugees out of mind and out of sight, our government could not silence Behrouz.
He found a way through writing and publication to explain the brutality he and all those trapped offshore were enduring, and he found an audience of millions of people around the world. He told us of the deaths, the suicides, the self-harm, the extinguishment of hope and the everyday indignities Australia’s offshore detention regime meted out to people who only sought safety and freedom.
The people trapped in Nauru and Papua New Guinea need us all to act to ensure our government frees them from offshore detention. As Behrouz told us, the situation is desperate, we need to act fast to ensure all those who need it get the safety they deserve.