Candlelight vigil in Bendigo to protest treatment of asylum seekers left languishing once detention centres close

Protesters who once rallied for the closure of overseas detention centres will again meet in Bendigo on Wednesday, this time to lament the fate of detainees once the offshore facilities shut their doors. 

The vigil comes four years after then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared asylum seekers would be held in offshore camps and never settled in Australia.

It also marks three months until a centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, is to be razed; with a facility on Nauru also earmarked for closure before the end of 2019, questions are being asked about the future of about 2000 asylum seekers detained offshore. 

Federal government negotiations with neighbouring countries hoping to yield offers of re-settlement are yet to reap definite commitments.  

Vigil organiser Chris Cummins said the Rosalind Park piazza vigil, one of 53 events to be held across Australia, was an opportunity to mourn the loss of human life and dignity in the centres, as well as demand a bipartisan solution before asylum seekers were forced to find homes in their countries of incarceration.

The Rural Australians for Refugees spokeswoman said the islands were not hospitable homes for those escaping persecution.

“They don't have the infrastructure, they’re eking out their own existence.”  

On the other hand, Australia was capable of accepting far more than the 13,000 refugees it already took every year, Ms Cummins said.

“It is so minuscule it’s embarrassing,” she said. 

"Turkey and Iran and Pakistan take people by the million into their borders, and we’d rather give them nothing and use them as some sort of deterrent.

“It's so punitive and it is so inhumane.”

Ms Cummins previously worked as a trauma counsellor inside the Australian government’s detention centre on Christmas Island and said the policy was cruel to people already displaced from their homeland. 

“There's no way that anyone could recover in a place like that, especially when they're not offered any sense o]f safety, They have no future, no education, no employment.” 

Asylum seekers will be among those to speak at tomorrow’s event, which starts at 6pm. Attendees are encouraged to bring a candle. 

Vigils are also planned for Berlin, London and the Philippines.