Detainee bags top prize for book written via WhatsApp

Behrouz Boochani. Picture courtesy: Facebook

Behrouz Boochani. Picture courtesy: Facebook  

Asylum-seeker is languishing in Australian camp for 6 years

A refugee held in a remote Pacific detention centre has won Australia’s top literature prize with his debut book, which he wrote on his mobile phone and delivered one chapter at a time via WhatsApp.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian held in an Australian-run camp on a Papua New Guinea island, won the $72,390 Victorian Prize for literature on Thursday with his book No Friends but the Mountains.

Mr. Boochani, who has been held in the Manus Island camp since shortly after he was taken off a refugee boat on its way to Australia six years ago, said he hoped the prize would focus attention on the plight of more than 1,000 people in Australia’s off-shore camps.

“I don’t want to celebrate this achievement while I still see many innocent people suffering around me,” Mr. Boochani said in an exchange of text messages.

Mr. Boochani has been a prominent critic of the treatment of people under Australias hardline immigration policy.

Asylum seekers intercepted at sea are sent for “processing” to camps. They are not allowed to set foot in Australia.

Mr. Boochani said one of his biggest fears when he was writing the book was that his telephone would be confiscated by camp guards. “I was worried that if they attacked my room they would take my property,” he said.

He wrote the book in his native Farsi and sent it via the WhatsApp to a translator in Australia.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 6:31:05 AM |

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