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Behrouz Boochani (L) is one of thousands of men, women and children, stranded in offshore detention centers. © Ashley Gilbertson/VII The New York Times

The continued detention of Kurdish-Iranian writer and activist, Behrouz Boochani, is an egregious violation of international standards of protection for refugees and exposes Australia’s cruel disregard for the welfare of asylum seekers. On Human Rights Day, PEN International calls on Australia’s authorities to end its unacceptable treatment of asylum seekers and immediately find safe and meaningful resettlement options for Behrouz Bouchani and all other refugees currently stranded on Manus Island and Nauru in line with international law.

In 2013, Behrouz Boochani fled Iran seeking safety after several of his colleagues were arrested, in what would be become a life-changing decision that would lead him to bear witness to Australia’s hard-line refugee policy and where he remains detained himself, four years later.

‘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. Their treatment is casting a very dark shadow on our humanity. We can and must do better.’ Said Ebony Riddell Bamber, PEN International’s Director of Advocacy and Communications.  

Travelling through south-east Asia, Boochani was intercepted by Australian Navy on the way from Indonesia and taken to Christmas Island, an Australian territory. Despite immediately requesting asylum, as was his right under international law, Boochani – like so many others – was forcibly transferred to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.

Following the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court’s April 2016 ruling that the Manus Island processing centre was illegal, the Australian authorities finally decided to close it. Boochani was part of a series of peaceful protests against their continued detention, for which he was arrested. After his release, he was forcibly moved to a transit centre with harsh conditions and inadequate facilities, where he remains.

The thousands of men, women and children, stranded in offshore detention centers deserve protection and safety; instead they are met with cruelty and degrading treatment. Housed in poor facilities, with little or no access to healthcare, they are vulnerable people who have been detained years, without any hope of release or a dignified future.

On Human Rights 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. Join PEN and take action here.

PEN International is working to promote the voices and rights of migrant and refugee writers through its Make Space campaign.

Take action and support Behrouz Boochani here.

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