Kurdish-Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani has spoken about his life in New Zealand for the first time.
The award-winning author spent six years in detention on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, after fleeing Iran and his autobiography details his journey from Indonesia to Australia by boat.
He arrived in New Zealand in November 2019 after being invited to speak at WORD Christchurch but did not leave when his 30-day visitor visa expired.
In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald he says he spends his time cycling along Christchurch’s Avon River, people watching in coffee shops, and taking walks in the city centre.
Boochani was accepted for resettlement in the United States and told reporters he was investigating whether he could fly from New Zealand to the US.
His application to come to New Zealand was sponsored by Amnesty International NZ, and he was greeted by mayor Lianne Dalziel when he arrived in Christchurch on November 29.
He was interviewed by television journalist John Campbell in front of a live audience at Christchurch Boys’ High School.
Hundreds of people attended the talk. Speaking at the time, Boochani said it was hard to describe “feeling the city, the streets, the people, cars, buildings, the season” after being incarcerated for so long.
His decision to overstay beyond his visa has attracted criticism.
In December 2019, National’s immigration spokesman, Stuart Smith, said Boochani’s continued presence in New Zealand raises several questions for the prime minister and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.
“Behrouz Boochani is thought to be here illegally since his 30-day visa expired last weekend, but the Government doesn’t seem interested in doing anything about it,” he said.