14 June 2019 - Six years after being forcibly transferred to Manus Island, award-winning writer, film-maker and journalist Behrouz Boochani remains stranded on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. 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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Send appeals to the Australian authorities, calling on them to:
- Immediately make resettlement arrangements for Kurdish Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani and all other migrants and asylum seekers currently located on Manus Island and Nauru, in line with international law;
- Ensure that detention is a matter of last resort in cases where there are reasonable concerns for public safety or that the migrant may abscond;
- Inform detained migrants and asylum seekers in writing, in a language that they understand, of the reason for their detention, its duration, their right to have access to a lawyer, their right to promptly challenge their detention and their right to seek asylum;
- Ensure that migrants and asylum seekers have access to adequate medical care – including mental health services – adequate food, cloths, hygienic conditions;
- End the criminalisation of criticism of Australia’s asylum procedures which amounts to a restriction of freedom of expression.
Send appeals to:
Hon. David Coleman MP
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs,
PO Box 564, Revesby, NSW, 2212 Australia
The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Home Affairs
PO Box 6022
Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone: 02 6277 7860
Fax: 02 6273 4144
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Scott Morrison MP,
Prime Minister of Australia, PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
Via online form: https://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm
Please also send copies of your appeals to the Australian Embassy in your country. Contact details for embassies can be found here.
****Please contact this office if sending appeals after 21 July 2019. Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.****
To PEN Centres in those countries with resettlement programmes:
- Urge your government to provide resettlement places to those refugees currently on Manus Island and Nauru who are deemed to have a legitimate claim to asylum;
- Urge your government to put pressure on the Australian government to immediately make arrangements to resettle migrants and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru in line with international law, and end the clamp down on free speech in relation to their asylum policies
To PEN Centres in those countries without resettlement programmes:
- Urge the establishment of resettlement programmes and ICORN cities for writers at risk;
- Urge your government to put pressure on the Australian government to immediately make arrangements to resettle migrants and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru in line with international law, and end the clamp down on free speech in relation to their asylum policies;
- Consider adopting Behrouz Boochani as an honorary member. Details of how to campaign for honorary members may be found in the Writers in Prison Committee Handbook, available here.
- Organise public events, press conferences, demonstrations, readings of Boochani’s poetry and other writings;
- Write solidarity messages to Behrouz Boochani, messages can be sent via: email@example.com
- Share Boochani’s writings online (see two poems by Boochani here)
- Share PEN’s 2018 Resolution on Australia.
- Please tag Boochani in any social media actions that you take: @BehrouzBoochani
In his native Iran, Behrouz Boochani worked as a freelance journalist, and for several Iranian newspapers including Kasbokar Weekly, Khanoon, Etemad and the Iranian Sports Agency. His publications include articles on politics in the Middle East and interviews with the Kurdish elite in Tehran. He is the co-founder, -editor, and contributor to the Kurdish Magazine Werya (Varia). On 17 February 2013, officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ransacked the Werya offices in Ilam and arrested 11 of his colleagues. Several were subsequently imprisoned. Fearing for his safety, Boochani went into hiding.
During his three months in hiding, several colleagues advised Boochani that he was at risk of arrest and interrogation. In addition to this, as a member of the Kurdish minority in Iran, and of both the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the National Union of Kurdish Students, he had experienced years of threats and surveillance. Having been interrogated and warned previously about his writing and work teaching Kurdish culture and language, and having signed an undertaking that he would not continue this activity, he was in grave danger.
Boochani fled Iran on 23 May 2013. In July of that year, he and fellow asylum seekers were intercepted by the Australian Navy en route from Indonesia. Despite immediately requesting asylum, as was his right under Article 1 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Boochani – like so many others – was taken to Christmas Island, Australia, and, from there, forcibly transferred to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Boochani has remained on Manus Island ever since.
In the face of adversity, Boochani has continued to write about Kurdish and Iranian politics from detention, as well as to expose the terrible conditions that he and his fellow detainees have faced. In 2017, Boochani clandestinely shot footage of conditions on Manus Island on a smart phone; with the co-direction of Iranian filmmaker and editor, Arash Kamali Sarvestani, the footage was made into the full-length film: Chauka Please Tell Us the Time. Most recently, Boochani published his book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison to critical acclaim; he was awarded both the Victoria Prize for Non-Fiction and for Literature, awards traditionally bestowed upon Australian nationals or residents.
In May 2017, the PNG and Australian authorities initiated the process of decommissioning the Manus Island processing centre, progressively shutting down services. The men were offered a number of options: accepting temporary relocation in PNG to purpose-built Refugee Transit Centres; voluntarily transferring to Nauru; returning home voluntarily or moving to a third country where they already have the right to reside.
Following the re-election of the Coalition government in May 2019, there has been an deterioration in the well-being and mental health of those left on Manus Island, with a reported dramatic increase in incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts. The crisis has reportedly led the Papua New Guinea government to deploy its paramilitary police unit – a squad accused of having committed human rights abuses – around the Manus camp.
Boochani remains at high risk. His continued coverage of Kurdish and Iranian politics, published in Kurdish newspapers, means that he would be at risk of imprisonment should he return to Iran. Given the Australian government’s criminalisation of commentary on its asylum seeker policy and the situation in its offshore detention centres (see PEN’s 2018 Resolution), Boochani is unlikely to ever be welcomed onto Australian soil. Furthermore, although Boochani was accorded refugee status by PNG immigration authorities in April 2016, remaining on PNG is not a viable option, as he and the other men stranded on PNG have genuine and well-founded concerns about their safety (for more information on conditions on Manus and Nauru, please see PEN’s Human Rights Day action 2017).
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.
For further information please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, Unit A, 162-164 Abbey St, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: firstname.lastname@example.org