The New Zealand government has scotched a suggestion Behrouz Boochani benefited from a politicised process when gaining access to the country, where he is reportedly bidding for asylum.
The opposition immigration spokesman Stuart Smith made the sensational claim while questioning the government over the whereabouts of the acclaimed author and refugee.
Boochani travelled to New Zealand in November, ending a marathon stay in Australia’s offshore detention regime by accepting an invitation for a speaking engagement in Christchurch.
Immigration New Zealand granted the Iranian-born Kurdish refugee a one-month visitor visa.
Almost six months later, Boochani is understood to still be in New Zealand awaiting a decision on that application.
New Zealand law prohibits INZ or government ministers from speaking about asylum bids, or even whether an application exists.
On Monday, Smith suggested Boochani was let into the country only because he had “political friends in New Zealand in the Green party and the Labour party”.
“I deeply suspect there was interference from further up the ladder or influence because of Boochani’s political connections,” he told Radio NZ.
The immigration minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, kept his response to the corruption allegation short, saying: “He’s wrong.”
Comment has also been sought from the Greens.
Smith pointed to an interview last year when Boochani pledged not to return to Papua New Guinea as evidence had Boochani falsified his original visa application.
“If [INZ] do their job properly his [asylum] application would fail on the grounds that he filled out a visa incorrectly when he came,” he said. “On the face of it, he should not have been allowed in.”
Jacinda Ardern declined to comment on Boochani’s case.
“These are questions that only he himself can answer,” the prime minister said.
“Generally of course we have an expectation that people, when they are in New Zealand, they are here legally and Immigration takes action if they are not.”
Human rights organisations lauded Boochani’s departure from Papua New Guinea in November.
The 36-year-old conducted a number of speaking engagements, including the sold-out Word Christchurch event which sponsored his trip, in New Zealand before the expiry of his visitor visa.
His visit was supported by Amnesty International, which has not responded to requests for comment.
Boochani said last year his welcome in New Zealand was “exactly the opposite of what I experienced on Manus Island”, where he was incarcerated for four years after attempting to seek asylum in Australia.
“In Manus I experienced violence. Cruelty. Humiliation,” he said. “In New Zealand I’m welcomed by people. I’ve experienced kindness.
“Many people have stopped in the streets to show their kindness.”