Wellington vigil marks first anniversary of murder of asylum seeker Reza Berati
On Tuesday, 17 February from 8am Wellingtonians will mark the one year anniversary of the murder of asylum seeker Reza Berati. They will gather outside the Australian High Commission to show solidarity for Australian activists seeking to shut down the Manus Island detention centre.
“We’re commemorating Reza Berati and we’re standing with Australians who want to shut down these South Seas gulags,” said Murdoch Stephens who organised the protest in solidarity with Australians and Allies Overseas Against Mandatory Detention. Stephens also runs the Doing Our Bit campaign to double New Zealand’s refugee quota that has not grown in 28 years.
Stephens said they expected about thirty people at the vigil. The aim was to have Australian activists wake up to images of solidarity to start their own days of remembrance and action.
“We have so much respect for Australian refugee activists and we want them to know it. We were so inspired by their recent stands to stop a Tamil asylum seekers being deported, as well as their ‘unapologetic spoilsport’ disruptions at the Australian Open and World Cup Cricket.”
“And if people can’t attend the vigil we’re encouraging them to share their own ‘Kiwis for #ShutDownManus’ selfies on social media.”
Galvanizing under the hashtag #ShutDownManus and organising through social media, activists from the group Australians and Allies Overseas Against Mandatory Detention call for an end to what Berlin organizer Carol Peterson describes as the “cruel on-and-offshore detention policies that inflict deliberate harm on people fleeing war, genocide, and political or religious persecution.” Peterson says, “If the public knew the truth about what is happening they would be shocked. Many would feel compelled to join us in our demand that the Australian Government drop it’s illegal, deliberately brutal, and extremely expensive policy of offshore mandatory detention.”
At the time of this press release, vigils and rallies have taken place in New York, London, Dublin, Boston, Cambridge (UK), Berlin, Brussells, San Francisco, Santiago (Chile) and Leeds (UK), with future actions also planned in Amsterdam and The Hague, Houston (Texas), Austin, Paris, the West Bank, Belgium, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sheffield, Belfast, Hong Kong and Japan. The wave of activity highlights growing discontent among the Australian and broader global communities with Australia’s illegal border protection policies. Boston organizer Julia Dehm said, “It is imperative to build an internationalized grassroots movement to stand in solidarity with the detainees inside Manus Island, to support their struggles and make sure that their messages reach an international audience.”
Australian company Transfield Services manages the Manus detention center under government contract, overseeing the detention of over 1000 people claiming asylum in Australia including Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese, Pakistanis, Afghans, Iranians, Sri Lankans, Burmese, stateless Faili Kurds, stateless Rohingya, Egyptians and Lebanese people. As the Sydney Morning Herald recently outlined, the Manus center is part of Australia’s offshore immigration processing system, which contravenes Australia’s international human rights obligations and cost Australian taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion in 2014. The hunger strike that triggered the vigils, the largest hunger strike in Australian detention history, protested Australian and PNG plans to permanently resettle refugees in PNG - one of the most poorly resourced countries in the region. Detainees sewed their lips closed, swallowed razor blades, and ingested detergent as part of their protest.