Thousands of Australians Hold Candlelit Vigils for Refugees

Thousands of Australians have gathered to hold candlelit vigils across the country, in memory of Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott comes under increasing pressure to assist Europe with the migration crisis.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that around 10,000 people have gathered in Sydney's Hyde Park as a sign of solidarity with refugees. The vigils are currently ongoing in cities across the country, including Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

Abbott said on Sunday that Australia would take more refugees from Syria and Iraq and that almost 4,500 refugees from these two countries had been accepted into the country during the last financial year. He also highlighted that the coalition government had previously announced that it was "steadily increasing" Australia's total humanitarian intake from 13,750 to 18,750 by 2018-19.

However, Abbott has been put under increasing pressure both by his colleagues in government and from party opposition leaders. The BBC reported that the opposition Labor party called on Monday for 10,000 additional places to be made available to those seeking refuge from countries in the Middle East. Abbott's Liberal colleague Mike Baird, the premier of New South Wales, said Australia's policy could not be reduced to simply stopping refugee boats from reaching its shores.

Currently, Australia detains any migrants coming in by boat. Refugees are processed at offshore centres and resettled elsewhere. The BBC reported that Australia struck a deal with Cambodia in September to send refugees there in exchange for millions of dollars.

Pictures and videos of the vigils, published on social media, showed Australians offering welcome to refugees and holding a minute's silence for Kurdi, whose body washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach last week.

RT @AmeliaAmnestyOz: 1-2-3> thousands at #lighthedark say #RefugeesWelcome, literally. pic.twitter.com/5BUNt4JaYq

— Amnesty International Australia 🕯 (@amnestyOz) September 7, 2015

You could hear a pin drop - a minute's silence for refugee toddler #AylanKurdi at #LightTheDark Melbourne tonight pic.twitter.com/GmhgrlEzVQ

— Oxfam Australia (@OxfamAustralia) September 7, 2015