Rallying for refugees

Robin Margo (far right) with other Jewish representatives at the Palm Sunday Rally for Refugees. Photo: Judy Pincus

LAST Sunday, former chairman of the New Israel Fund Australia and former president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Robin Margo addressed thousands of participants at Sydney’s Palm Sunday Rally in support of refugees and those seeking asylum in Australia.

The gathering was attended by around 2500 people, including dozens who came together under a banner that read “Jews for Refugees”. Among them were members of the Progressive, Zionist youth movement Netzer.

Margo spoke to the crowd at Belmore Park about the Australian Jewish community’s assistance to refugees and desire to see the government produce humane refugee policies. “Jews know as much as any others what it is like to be desperately seeking refuge and many in our community were helped to safety by people smugglers, some good individuals, others less so,” he said.

“Which is why Australian Jewish organisations – for example, AIJAC, Stand Up, B’nai B’rith and Music for Refugees – and Jews working for refugees in other organisations, have spoken up for humane refugee policies and in support of people seeking asylum.”

Margo also made reference to the Australia-wide rabbinical support “from all streams of Judaism” for refugees that has been formally expressed recently through statements from 16 rabbis and from the Rabbinical Council of Victoria.

“The rabbis are conscious of the complexities governments face as a result of global refugee flows, in Europe and also in our region,” Margo explained. “But they are aware also, from the evidence of experts and incidents that have occurred, that under current Australian policies people are being detained on Nauru, Manus Island and elsewhere, in conditions that are detrimental to physical safety and mental health.

“They call on the government to observe Australia’s obligations under international refugee and humanitarian law and to show compassion to these most vulnerable people.”

Other speakers who addressed the rally included president of the NSW Ecumenical Council Reverend John Barr, Ahmad Malas from the Lebanese Muslim Association, and Wies Schuiringa from the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

After the speeches, participants marched with banners and drums down Broadway to Victoria Park, Camperdown.

ELENORE LEVI