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Controversial Go Back To Where You Came From


Aug 17, 2010
World citizen!
SBS was one of my favourite channels when I lived in Australia. They recently aired a controversial reality TV programme called, 'Go back where you came from'. Here is the official synopsis.

Six ordinary Australians agree to challenge their preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers by embarking on a confronting 25-day journey. Tracing in reverse the journeys that refugees have taken to reach Australia, they travel to some of the most dangerous and desperate corners of the world, with no idea what is in store for them along the way.

Deprived of their wallets, phones and passports, they board a leaky refugee boat, are rescued mid-ocean, experience immigration raids in Malaysia, live in a Kenyan refugee camp and visit slums in Jordan before ultimately making it to the Democratic Replublic of Congo and Iraq, protected by UN peacekeepers and the US military. For some of them it's their first time abroad. For all of them, it's an epic journey and the most challenging experience of their lives.

The programme can be watched on the SBS website and I think it is also available on youtube.

Here is a trailer
YouTube - ‪Go Back To Where You Came From - SBS‬‏

Here is an Australian newspaper report;
IT’S become the new millennium’s answer to the phrase adopted by well-meaning yet anxious types throughout the 1990s. Back then it went a little something like “Some of my best friends are gay but…”

More than a decade on, a replacement to that time-honoured disclaimer can be found in the responses commonly aired in discussions regarding asylum seekers.

Justifications about new arrivals stealing spots from “genuine” refugees and bewilderment as to what sort of person risks the life of their family in crossing an ocean aboard a leaky vessel are all too familiar.

Scepticism abounds as to the true motivation of boat people – surely it’s really about chasing the good life rather than fleeing persecution?
And then there’s the unwavering view that providing asylum to boat people is only rewarding those who have opted to gain entry into our waters via “illegal” methods.

In the eyes of many, such wariness is simply common sense.
From the context of our privileged existence in Australia, it’s not easy to see past the catchy slogans and stereotypes that characterise the debate over asylum seekers.

It’s not hatred or racism that underpin such sentiments so much as good old-fashioned ignorance.

But it’s this dehumanising approach that allows us to remain detached from the actual people and horror stories that lie behind each new arrival.

The participants in the new three-part series, Go Back to Where You Came From, are six “ordinary” Australians seemingly handpicked for providing an accurate representation of the broader population.

Hailing from around the country, and encompassing a range of beliefs, backgrounds and day jobs, they are forced to relinquish all personal possessions before retracing a 25-day journey undertaken by refugees who have reached Australia.

What follows is an eye-opening voyage as, without passports or means of contacting their loved ones, they set sail for overcrowded camps on the other side of the world.

There are no earnest lectures or overblown symphonies. It’s a premise that speaks for itself as participants rethink their preconceived convictions.

Cronulla lifeguard Adam Hartup, who was at the 2005 riots, is adamant anyone seeking to enter the country illegally should be immediately sent home.

After meeting an Iraqi refugee at the Villawood detention centre, and realising he cannot swim, Hartup develops a newfound appreciation for the desperation he must have felt to risk his life aboard an unseaworthy boat.

After enduring a miserable trip to Malaysia and then on to Jordan, before venturing into the man’s war torn hometown of Baghdad, the 26-year-old undergoes a complete change of heart.

It’s a transformation shared by Blacktown resident Raquel Moore, an unemployed 21-year-old who complains about her Western Sydney neighbourhood being taken over by African refugees.

“If it was up to me, I’d send then home,” she declares before subjecting herself to a harrowing trip that culminates in lining up for hours to receive the most basic of rations at a refugee camp in Kenya.
“If you’ve seen what we’ve seen…” she tells the camera crew as she searches for the words to explain her unexpected about face. “We all have hearts, and I have a heart.”

Like all reality TV, Go Back to Where You Came From is at times contrived and manipulative. These are, after all, integral qualities of the genre as universally employed by savvy programmers.

Trite or not, it’s an experiment best summed up by Moore when she admits that no one with a heart could fail to be moved by what she has witnessed.

Beyond the inevitable fearmongers peddling in anti-refugee sentiment, for most Australians it’s indifference and misinformation that clouds our judgment regarding asylum seekers.

Yet strip away the well-intentioned but ignorant excuses and simplistic disclaimers and it’s then one of our strongest national traits – compassion – will emerge.


Immigration is a huge issue all over the world. It is a topic that excites much emotion and prejudice. This is an interesting way to get us to think about things. The programme makes interesting viewing and imho is worth the time to explore.


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