Thousands of people have lit up the night skies with candles
across Australia at vigils to remember slain Iranian asylum
seeker Reza Berati and to call for an end to secrecy on
Organiser of the event GetUp! estimated 15,000 people
attended vigils in several capital cities, with about 5000 in
Melbourne and 3000 in Sydney.
The vigils come days after Mr Berati, 23, was killed and 62
other asylum seekers were injured in violence at the
Australian-run immigration detention centre on Papua New
Guinea's Manus Island.
"The truth is we just don't know what's happening in these
places. The government's shut off the lights, taking
censorship to an unprecedented level," GetUp! national
director Sam McLean said.
World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello spoke at the
Melbourne vigil in Federation Square and said the people who
attended across the country were doing serious moral work.
"We know asylum policy is complex, but what isn't complex is
that a human being who came to us for protection instead died
in terrible circumstances," Rev Costello said.
Father Bob Macguire, also in Melbourne, said the thousands of
candles that lit up Federation Square would shine a light on
the plight of asylum seekers.
Several other speakers called for the closure of Manus
The gathering also shared one minute's silence to remember Mr
GetUp! says more than 600 snap protests were organised for
Sunday night, from Queensland cattle stations to Sydney's
Among the 3000 at the Town Hall vigil was Emma
Miller-Cockcroft, who is sick of the government's treatment
of asylum seekers, which she reckons doesn't reflect the will
of many Australians.
"If your own government doesn't respect human right to life
then ... it's just a disgrace. It's embarrassing," the
28-year-old told AAP.
"It's important that the world knows not all Australians are
like this. We've got a reputation as being quite racist."
The "hysteria" over a couple of boat arrivals was
disingenuous and ignored Australia's history, she added.
"Some of my family came here in 1890. They didn't drive to
Australia from Europe, they came by boats."
Xenophobic treatment of asylum seekers must stop in
Australia, The Chaser's Chris Tylor said during a brief
address to the crowd.
"We have more land than anyone else and we take fewer people
than anyone else. That is absolutely appalling."
Sydney-based communications student Sarah Hunt, 34, agreed,
adding that Australia was "privileged" and said the debate
should centre on human rights, not which of the two major
parties was less-harsh.