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Behrouz Boochani: Refugee who wrote book using WhatsApp wins top prize

February 1, 2019 5:20 am

An asylum seeker and journalist detained for years by Australia on an island in the Pacific has been awarded the country’s richest literary prize.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian Kurd, wrote No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by text message from inside a detention centre.

It won the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature, worth A$100,000 (£55,000).

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Boochani remains on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and is not allowed to enter Australia.

The controversial detention centre in which he was held was closed in late 2017. He – and hundreds of others – have since been moved to alternative accommodation.

Australia has a strict policy on any asylum seekers who arrive by boat, vowing that they will never be resettled in Australia, even if found to be genuine refugees. It says its policies are necessary to deter dangerous attempts to reach the country by sea.

Alongside the prize for literature, No Friend But the Mountains also won the Prize for Non-Fiction at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, worth $25,000.

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