OPINION: You have to hand it to Behrouz Boochani and his merry band of supporters, they have played the system exceedingly well.
A combination of an uninterested media, a prevaricating Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration and the week before Christmas all combine to mean that we have an overstayer in our midst about whom nothing is being done.
To recap. Boochani is an Iranian Kurd and a writer of some repute. He escaped his homeland and fled to Indonesia.
From there he went illegally, to Australia. As is the right and proper thing to do, Australian authorities intercepted the boat he was on.
They will only accept into their country people who have followed the correct immigration procedures. Boochani and others were then taken to the Australian government immigration processing centre on Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea.
He was there for six years until the processing centre was declared illegal by the PNG Supreme Court and the detainees were transferred to the capital, Port Moresby.
Australian government policy has remained rock solid. These people will not be allowed into Australia unless in a medical emergency.
Some of them have used the medevac loophole, have arrived in Australia and are still there, much to the chagrin of the Australian government.
Boochani, who wrote a book while on Manus Island, attracted the attention of organisers at a Christchurch literary festival.
He was invited to speak at the festival in late November. Boochani came to New Zealand from PNG, but without passing through Australia. He had a one month visitors visa which expired on December 15th.
Neither the Prime Minister, who has expressed considerable sympathy for Manus Island detainees, nor the Immigration Minister knew Boochani was coming to this country. But the Green MP Golriz Gahraman did, and was photographed with him in his arrival.
It is now past December 15. He was supposed to leave the country last weekend. He didn’t. Boochani should not be here.
He has not, as far as the public is aware, applied for political asylum. But then why should he?
And how can he?
As an illegal refugee with no status of nationality, apart presumably of Iran, he has been accepted for resettlement in the USA.
Remember the USA? Land of opportunity. The nation founded on immigration. E Pluribus Unum - from many into one, and all that.
So Boochani is welcome to go and live in the USA. But he’s now decided now he doesn’t want to, mainly because of the guy who is the President.
A pretty ordinary excuse I would have thought. But here’s the thing. After trying to jump the queue into Australia and not following proper process, he has been put through a system for these people.
He has a country to go to, the richest nation on earth no less, but he wants to be here instead.
Well I’m sorry, in this country we have a proper immigration process too. That entails applying to live here and being accepted. It doesn’t mean jumping the queue, coming here on false pretences with no intention of ever leaving and using friends in high political places – like in the ruling government coalition. It’s been done under the noses of a media who had their eye off the ball.
It’s been done under the noses of both the PM and the Minister of Immigration.
And because it’s a few days out from Christmas and the holidays, nobody is going to take any action now.
That’s why the timing of Boochani’s supporters has been impeccable, and disgraceful.
He has no right to be here. He has no need to be here. He has a temporary place to live in PNG. He can stay there until America is ready to accept him or he gathers the wherewithal to get there.
He should leave the country ASAP.
Peter Williams is the host of Magic Talk Mornings.