New Zealand’s immigration service has said the Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker and journalist Behrouz Boochani will not get special treatment if he overstays his visitor visa.
Boochani arrived in Christchurch on Friday to attend a literary festival after leaving his Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea on Wednesday.
The office of the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, refused to comment on Boochani’s arrival, and referred all inquiries regarding his status to Immigration New Zealand.
The country’s immigration minister, Iain Lees-Galloways, also refused to comment on the case.
Greg Patchell, the deputy chief executive of Immigration New Zealand, said Boochani was a recognised refugee with UNHCR status, but had already been accepted for resettlement by the US and would be staying only temporarily in New Zealand.
“He is in New Zealand on a one-month limited visa for the specific purpose of speaking at a conference in Christchurch. He must depart before his visa expires,” Patchell said. “He is fully sponsored by Amnesty International who are responsible for meeting all his costs.”
“If he claims asylum in New Zealand, an independent statutory process decides his claim. Government ministers have no role in this process.”
Patchell said Boochani’s visitor visa had been granted only because officials were satisfied he “genuinely intends a temporary stay in New Zealand”.
Boochani has yet to formally apply for asylum in New Zealand, and says he wants a few days to adjust to his freedom before engaging in any formal process with the government.
However, he has vowed tonever to return to Manus Island, telling the Guardian: “I will never go back there.”
“I want to be free just for a while,” he said. “As a writer, nothing else. I don’t want to be a part of a process for a while.”
The Kurdish Iranian refugee, who is elated but weary after a 34-hour journey across six timezones in the Asia-Pacific, thanked the people of New Zealand for welcoming him, saying it was “an honour to be here … and a reminder of kindness”.
For six years, New Zealand has had a standing offer to resettle 150 refugees from the offshore processing islands of Manus and Nauru each year, but that offer has been consistently rebuffed by Australia.
Under the Ardern government New Zealand has committed to increase its refugee quota from 1,000 a year to 1,500 by the middle of next year.
Boochani arrived by boat on Christmas Island in July 2013 and was sent to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea a month later.
While in detention, Boochani wrote a book, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, which won this year’s Victorian Prize for Literature and the National Biography Award – Australia’s richest literary prize.
He also filmed a documentary of life in the Manus centre on a mobile phone, which has been seen in Australia, London and Berlin.
AAP contributed to this report