RESIDENTS of Warrnambool were yesterday called to light a candle and join thousands across the nation for an impromptu vigil, triggered by the shocking death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati.
About 60 people attended Warrnambool's version of the snap vigils coordinated by online activist group GetUp, which hoped the culmination of events at the same time around the country would send a strong message of solidarity, hope and compassion.
GetUp member Geoff Rollinson spread the word in Warrnambool, asking people to grab a candle and meet at the Warrnambool Civic Green from 8pm last night to discuss issues around Australia's immigration policy.
"A few people spoke genuinely about the plight of refugees and we had a moment silence for the passing of Reza Berati," he told The Standard.
"There was an eight-year-old boy who passed on his views on the plight of asylum seekers, refugees, and it just stopped people in their tracks - it was extraordinary.
"I think (this issue) is engaging people who haven't been politically engaged.
"The trigger that made me really think about it is the fact you've got opposition from all parts of the political spectrum commenting so publicly and strongly about it as well.
"Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has been one of our most conservative leaders and even he is objecting to the secrecy surrounding out immigration policy and the inhumane way we treat those arriving to Australian shores."
Mr Rollinson said the event was organised in response to the hardening of Australian policy in relation to human rights and those seeking asylum from religious, economic or social persecution.
“It’s high time people fleeing persecution got a fair go in Australia."
GetUp’s national director Sam McLean said across the country, people would light candles for those who had died and suffered in Australian care.
“The truth is we just don’t know what’s happening in these detention centres," Mr McLean said.
"The government’s effectively shut off the lights, taking censorship to an unprecedented level.
“It's past time to switch those lights back on - we need a truly independent inquiry into this tragedy and proper public scrutiny of these places."