Golriz Ghahraman hits out at Judith Collins for 'race-baiting' over Behrouz Boochani's refugee status

Golriz Ghahraman has hit out at National leader Judith Collins for "race-baiting" over Behrouz Boochani's refugee status, and blasted NZ First for "dog-whistling" on immigration. 

Immigration New Zealand revealed on Friday that Boochani - a Kurdish journalist from Iran who fled persecution and ended up in an offshore Australian detention centre - had been granted asylum in New Zealand. 

Collins on Monday said she planned to grill Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over the decision to grant him refugee status, but then Ardern on Tuesday pointed out that Immigration NZ's decision to give him asylum was made independently. 

"Separate parties will raise their views, but what I have corrected is any assumption that there is political interference in this case. That would be wrong. I've heard it from a number of parties, including the Opposition," Ardern told reporters. 

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters appeared to agree with Collins that Boochani should not have been granted asylum. He said on Facebook the decision shows "why New Zealand First must provide the Minister for Immigration". 

Ghahraman, the Green Party's human rights and immigration spokesperson who is an Iranian refugee herself, responded by hitting out at New Zealand First and telling Newshub she felt Collins was "race-baiting". 

"It is race-baiting and it is really disappointing and New Zealand will demand better this election," Ghahraman said on Tuesday. 

Ghahraman said Peters' response reveals a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the ministerial relationship is with the justice system and the immigration determination system. 

"If a minister or a political party is saying they will interfere with those processes - that's constitutionally wrong," Ghahraman told Newshub. 

"That's dog-whistling to a certain type of voter and I don't think that's a really big block in New Zealand. I think New Zealanders actually want their processes to be fair and they do welcome refugees. 

"I do think that what Judith Collins has done here and what we've seen New Zealand First do again and again has actually meant that our minority communities out on the street are feeling less safe and they deserve better."

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman. Photo credit: Newshub

Collins, when asked if she was race-baiting, said it was a "stupid" question. 

"I am absolutely pro-refugees coming to New Zealand because I know that refugees like every other human being want to have a life that is worthwhile and they can contribute."

Collins said constituents have raised concerns with her about refugees 'queue-jumping'. She said she has requested details under the Official Information Act to clarify whether or not Boochani was given preference. 

"We do have people who are refugees, obviously, and many people want to know that their families or others are being treated the same and similarly to him and I think that is an important question," Collins said. 

"This is a time for New Zealanders to be very careful and to be very clear that everyone is following the rules."

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

Ghahraman said with refugee determination "there is no queue". 

Boochani spent six years in Australia's Manus Island detention centre, where using a smuggled smartphone, he detailed his experience as a refugee in what became his acclaimed book No Friend but the Mountains. 

National's immigration spokesperson Stuart Smith has suggested Boochani's ties to the Green Party won him political favour - a notion rejected by Ghahraman back in May as "baseless"

Boochani told TVNZ's Breakfast it's "unfair" that people call him a queue-jumper. 

New Zealand resettles refugees annually through the Refugee Quota Programme. Refugees who arrive in New Zealand under the quota are granted permanent residence status.

The number of refugees coming into New Zealand was increased from 1000 to 1500 this month by the current Government.