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Refugee Week 2008

17 June 2008

Refugee week, a time for reflection and action.

Anton Block, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the peak body of Victorian Jewry, said today:

“As a young migrant to Australia from South Africa, I well remember the emotional and practical difficulties involved in relocating to a new country. My parents, brothers and I left behind good friends, family members and familiar surroundings to start a new life.

Unsettling as this was, this was still our choice, freely made. The situation of refugees, however, is completely different. Commonly they are violently ousted, suffering dispossession, violence and the permanent loss of loved ones. They are dependent on the goodwill of others and often have no choice about where they end up. Even the lucky ones usually have to learn new ways of life, employment skills and languages. Many are permanently shattered by this traumatic experience.

This is Refugee Week and World Refugee Day will be commemorated this coming Friday, 20 June 2008. As a people whose history has been marked by wandering, this is an appropriate moment to reflect on our own current good fortune, and more importantly, a time to focus on the plight of those in need.

This is not simply a moral issue. We need only look at the benefits that displaced Europeans after World War Two and subsequently fleeing Vietnamese bestowed upon this welcoming country. As Australians old and new, we have all been enriched, materially, culturally and spiritually.

Now is a time to give more charity, to invite people into our lives, to speak to our Federal politicians about enhancing Australia’s Humanitarian Program and also to seek a resolution to the problems of Jews and Palestinians uprooted by the impasse between Israel and its neighbours.

We too have been strangers in a strange land.”

For further information, please contact:

Anton Block 0418 320 417 or Geoffrey Zygier 0413 731 545

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