Behrouz Boochani: Living in limbo on Manus Island

Behrouz Boochani: Living in limbo on Manus Island
From Al Jazeera - February 10, 2018

For more than four and a half years, Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has been in limbo on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

He was sent there by Australia in 2013, after he tried to reach its shores by boat.

As a journalist in Iran,Boochani published stories that promoted the Kurdish language and culture. He cofounded a Kurdish magazine, but after its offices were raided and several of his colleagues were arrested and accused of undermining the Iranian state, Boochani fled, fearing for his safety.

"I fell into trouble with the government ... I hid myself for more than a month in Tehran in a friend's house," says Boochani. "After that, I received some information that they [were] going to arrest me, too, and they [had] some plan ... I decided to leave Iran."

He travelled through Southeast Asia and then by boat from Indonesia to the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

But while his boat was at sea, the Australian government announced a new radical immigration policy - denying settlement to all asylum seekers arriving "illegally" by boat.

Soon after his arrival on Christmas Island, Boochani was deported to Australia's new offshore "processing centre" on Manus Island. It was part ofa deal in which PNG - in exchange for billions of dollars -would accommodate asylum seekers who tried to reachAustraliauntil their claims to be refugees were decided.

"When we arrived, they put us in a temporary place and they did not allow us to call our family ... I thought I arrived in Australia as a free country, [but] after 20 days, they said, 'We are going to exile you to Manus Island and you must live there forever or you go back to your country,'" recalls Boochani.

Australia's detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru have been criticised for its poor conditions by human rights groups includingAmnesty International, who recently published areportcriticising Australia's immigration policy as one of "cruelty and neglect".

"For us, it's a prison, [it's] even worse than a prison," he says, describing his experience as "systematic torture"."Six people already died under this policy in this prison camp ... Their policy was to create hate ... They were happy for people in Manus prison to hate Australia, to forget Australia."

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