Protests and vigils have been planned across Australia, and around the world, to mark the anniversary of Barati’s death. In Sydney, a skywriting plane wrote “Shut Down Manus” above the iconic Opera House on Tuesday. Artists not associated with any refugee or political groups crowd-funded the idea and raised money online within a week. The anniversary of the asylum seeker’s death was also marked by Twitter’s users, as thousands shared photos of candles lit in Barati’s memory.
Reza Barati, 23-year-old, was allegedly killed by detention center staff on February 17, 2014 during a three-day riot in the Manus Island detention center, which left about 70 people injured. Following violent clashes between asylum seekers, local police helped quell the riot, after which detention center guards were said to have run riot, attacking asylum seekers. Barati was fatally injured with a wooden pole and then had a large rock dropped on his head.
A 156-page report by the Australian Senate committee published last December concluded that the violence on Manus Island was “eminently foreseeable." Report found that a breakdown in security stirred the riots and could have been avoided if better protocols were put in place.
Meanwhile, according to Erin McCallum, Campaigns Chief of Staff at GetUp, tensions at the center now are running even higher than before the 2014 riot. McCallum, cited by Ninemsn on Tuesday, predicted further violence at the detention center.
Last month, nearly 700 detainees went on a hunger strike, swallowing razor blades and sewing their lips together as part of the protest. More than 40 asylum seekers were arrested when guards forcefully ended the protest.
Local company “Transfield Services” operates the Manus immigration detention center under an Australian government contract, overseeing the detention of over 1000 people claiming asylum. The immigrants are against being forcibly resettled on the island instead of in Australia and protest against living standards at the Manus detention center, including broken water pipes and hostility from the local Papua New Guinea population.