THE murder of 23-year-old Iranian refugee Reza Berati in an Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island has galvanised locals into forming a new advocacy group.
Mr Berati’s brutal death in February remains shrouded in mystery but this week a Senate committee hearing has heard he was attacked by security guards employed by G4S and local Papua New Guineans who stormed the centre after a protest.
Shortly after his death, Refugee Rights Action Network organised a candlelight vigil in Pioneer Park opposite the Fremantle train station.
RRAN member Sam Wainwright—a Fremantle councillor and Socialist Alliance member—told the Herald more than 100 turned up on short notice: “I think there was a general and growing outrage of people about the detention of people on Manus Island and particularly the murder of Reza Berati. There’d been some informal discussion within the network about forming a Fremantle branch, and this seemed to be the catalyst.”
Fellow RRAN member Leonie Lundy told the Herald 35 signed up to the new group on the day.
They’ve hit the ground running, and tomorrow (Sunday June 15) from 11.30am will be heavily involved in organising the Fremantle Refugee Welcome Walk and Fiesta at the Fremantle Esplanade.
The council is backing the event after dusting off a certificate it signed years ago as a “refugee welcome zone”.
There’s a walk through the streets, drumming circle, welcome to country and speeches, including by Hazara refugee Assadullah Khurrami.
The Fremantle RRAN will join Perth-based compadres to hold a dusk vigil at the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in Northam.
Mr Wainwright says evidence emerging from the Senate hearing and a report into the riots by Robert Cornall have highlighted appalling conditions at Manus. He’s calling on the Abbott government to abandon its hardline border protection policies: “They might have stopped the boats, but not the problem, it’s just a case of out of sight, out of mind.”
Ms Lundy says groups such as RRAN are particularly important now given the government’s silence about asylum seekers: activists are often the first to break news to journalists about events in detention centres.
by STEVE GRANT