Vigil for anniversary of murder of asylum seeker Reza
Berati on Manus Island
Doing Our Bit
On Tuesday 17 February forty New Zealanders turned up at the Australian High Commission in Wellington to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Reza Berati’s death at the Manus Island detention centre. They gathered to also pay homage to Australian activists working to shut down the Manus Island detention centre.
The vigil was organised by Doing Our Bit co-ordinator Murdoch Stephens as a way of offering solidarity to Australians as they woke up to begin their own demonstrations. Doing Our Bit is usually focussed on increasing New Zealand’s refugee resettlement quota that has not grown since it was established in the 1980s.
“I’m also so heartened to see Australians challenge their government over their abhorrent detention practices,” said Stephens. “So today I wanted to show these activists that people across the Tasman – or at least Aotearoa/New Zealand – support them.”
“The answer to the plight of asylum seekers is not mandatory detention. If you want an orderly process for people to seek asylum you need to increase the places by which people can come in under the UNHCR resettlement quota system, as former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser suggests.”
Those at the vigil received apologies from a large range of friends and supporters who couldn’t be at the event due to their work for government departments or associated employment. Similarly, attendees noticed the longing in the eyes of most employees of the Australian High Commission who entered the building past the vigil. Those at the vigil wanted to express their understanding of the precariousness of those employees and to forgive them for not joining the vigil. Instead, Doing Our Bit tweeted to the official Australian High Commission account that instead of joining the vigil they could flick the lights on and off to indicate support.
Midway through the vigil the lights did indeed flick on and off. Was it a nod of solidarity? Was it the fluorescent lighting warming up? Perhaps we’ll never know. But if we do never know if the Australian High Commission workers were expressing support for the Wellington vigil, we do know that the Australian activists were aware of the Wellington vigil: numerous messages of solidarity and passed between Doing Our Bit and activist organisations from across Australia.
Find out more about Doing Our Bit at http://www.doingourbit.co.nz