Schindler author compares Australian detention centers to WWII camps

sydney (ap) | The author of the book that inspired the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” likened Australia’s immigration detention centers to concentration camps, as he held a vigil earlier this week for 11 Sri Lankan asylum seekers held in one of the centers.

Thomas Keneally’s 1982 book “Schindler’s Ark” was based on the true story of a German industrialist who saved hundreds of Jews during World War II. It was adapted for Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, which won seven Oscars.

Keneally, an Australian, slammed his country’s practice of incarcerating asylum seekers caught sneaking into the country — and the remote, barbed wire-ringed centers where they are held.

“I do see them as concentration camps,” he said.

“I do feel having written ‘Schindler’ and benefited from that … when places like that appear in your own suburbs, you’ve got to kick up a fuss,” he said.

Keneally was speaking as he launched a 24-hour vigil in support of Sri Lankan author Sarath Amarsinghe, an asylum seeker who has been refusing food in South Australia state’s Baxter detention center for more than a week. Keneally also voiced support for 10 other detained Sri Lankans who are on a hunger strike to pressure Australian immigration officials to re-evaluate their asylum requests.

Most have been held for three to four years, and say they face grave danger for political reasons if they return to Sri Lanka.

Immigration Department spokesman Terry Walls said the Sri Lankans were free to leave any time — if they go back to their country.

“Their detention is due to the fact they have engaged in protracted appeals through courts and are choosing not to cooperate with plans to return home or to a country where they have a right of entry,” he said.