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Australian Jews Planning to Protest on Behalf of Muslim Asylum Seekers

March 15, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

During Passover, more than 500 Jewish protesters plan to march at a Melbourne refugee detention center to support asylum seekers — most of whom are Muslims.

Holding matzah instead of banners, the protesters plan to demonstrate at Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention Center chanting two songs from the Haggadah: “Ha Lachma Anya,” or “This is the Bread of Affliction,” and “Avadim Hayinu,” or “Once We Were Slaves.”

There are approximately 90 refugees, including six children, in Maribyrnong.

Jews for Refugees was established by education consultant David Zyngier, 51, whose parents came to Australia in 1949 without documents, seeking asylum from war-torn Europe.

Zyngier’s mother survived the Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps. His father joined the partisans to fight the Germans.

“Jews were interned and vilified when they arrived in Australia after the war,” Zyngier said. The religion of refugees “should be of no concern. This is a humanitarian problem. Who can forget the shiploads of Jewish refugees who were turned away during World War II?”

Australia incarcerates asylum seekers in closed detention centers that are heavily guarded and surrounded by barbed- wire fences.

The asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East and Afghanistan, make their way to Australia via Indonesia, where they pay as much as $8,000 to smugglers to transport them in rickety old boats, some of which have sunk, claiming many lives. Many asylum seekers have no papers.

They are detained for up to three years in Australia while their claims for refugee status are evaluated.

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