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Words by Nathan Fioritti

1,200 Australian academics have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, calling for the closure of offshore detention centres. The letter claims that the offshore processing on both Manus Island and Nauru is “seriously flawed and unsustainable”.

Professor Philomena Murray, of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, coordinated the letter. According to Professor Murray, the letter itself is a symbol of deep unease by academic staff across the country.

“Basically what you see is 1,200 academics who are so passionate and so concerned—really concerned, I think that’s the most important word to use—that they have written to me and to other people to talk about this concern.”

“When the letter got to 500 signatures in about three days, I sent it to the Prime Minister.”

After posting the letter online, there was an overwhelming reaction, leading to a national response, according to Professor Murray. It gained signatures and support from academics from every university in the country.

The idea for the letter came following a discussion with members of the group Academics for Refugees. The collaborative effort began after attending a vigil at Federation Square, following the death of 23-year-old asylum seeker Reza Berati on 17 February.

The Prime Minister has not responded to the open letter.