On International Refugee Day, PEN International is issuing a call for action in the case of Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian journalist currently detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
Boochani fled his native country of Iran in 2013 after the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ransacked his office, following “years of threats and surveillance” over his status as a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the National Union of Kurdish Students, according to PEN. The Australian government first held Boochani on Christmas Island, then transferred him to the Manus Island detention center with other migrants and asylum seekers; now, two years after the facility closed, he remains on the island.
Boochani has continued to produce work during his imprisonment. In 2017, he shot footage for what would eventually become the film Chauka Please Tell Us the Time, co-directed by Arash Kamali Sarvestani. Last year, his memoir No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, which he composed via WhatsApp messages on a smuggled phone, was published. PEN International said in a statement:
With his pen and camera Behrouz Boochani has shone a light on the horror, cruelty and injustice of Australian state policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. Writers, journalists and all people fleeing for their lives have the right to ask the international community for a safe place to make a new home. On World Refugee Day, PEN International calls upon the Australian government and international community to respect the rights of Behrouz Boochani and the world’s most vulnerable refugees by providing adequate protection and more resettlement places.
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In effect, Boochani remains marooned by Australia on Manus Island and his future is on hold indefinitely. This state of limbo has compounded his trauma, and amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is prohibited under international law, as affirmed in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Australia is a state party.
The organization called on people to appeal to the Australian government to make resettlement arrangements for Boochani, inform detained migrants and asylum seekers of their rights and ensure adequate medical care for them. It also called for detaining asylum seekers only as a last resort and to “end the criminalization of criticism of Australia’s asylum procedures.”