Go Back To Where You Came From.

Tonight, I’m catching up on the episodes of the three-part series broadcast by SBS here in Australia, called “Go Back To Where You Came From”. Basically, they’ve got six Australians with varying opinions and backgrounds, and are pushing them to challenge their views regarding asylum seekers by sending them to meet with refugees, sending them to refugee camps etc. It should be fascinating to watch, and this post will be my opinions, summarised during and at the end of each episode.

To start with, I’m a huge supporter of asylum seekers/refugees’ rights. I’ve attended events organised by the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, I’ve petitioned,  and recently, to learn more about the legal aspects, I did an HSC legal studies assignment on asylum seekers. Last year, I went on the Make Poverty History Roadtrip that was organised by various NGOs as a way to campaign for the government to keep their promise regarding the aid budget. To me, it’s not a case of border control – it’s a case of acknowledging and respecting the rights that all humans deserve. These people are only arriving on boats because they do not have the finances or paperwork to arrive by plane – and the number of asylum seekers who arrive by boat is so small already. These people don’t have time to ‘join the queue’, aka take the more bureaucratic route – they are fleeing for their lives, and I do not understand how people cannot empathise with those who have to do this. Politicians in Australia like to appear ‘tough’ on issues such as these, so their political rhetoric plays on the racism and hatred within the public, whether the public is aware of this or not. This pathetic notion of ‘stopping the boats’ is truly shameful – the right to asylum is one acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Convention on the Status of Refugees – both of which Australia has signed and ratified.

To then take these poor souls into our country, and lock them away indefinitely (which the High Court ruled lawful in the early 90s) is, in my eyes, a disgusting act. Human beings do not deserve this sort of treatment – to endure an excruciating and life-threatening journey, in the hopes of making a better life for themselves in Australia, only to be locked away while their claims are looked into. The fact that these actions are considered not enough by a large portion of the public really frightens me – and that’s where shows like this come in. From personal experience (watching a similar documentary in legal studies), I’ve found that personalising the refugee experience for people really brings out their empathetic side – girls in my class who previously would have swallowed the ‘stop the boats’ rhetoric were now crying along with the refugees on the video – they felt for them, they had a face to put on all of this political brouhaha. Personalising something that is otherwise presented by politicians and the media as a statistics-related issue is definitely one effective way to reach out to the Australian people.

For anyone who’s interested, you can read more or watch the episodes here: http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/goback/

On to the episodes….

Part One –

  • Darren says “I would never put my kids through that journey” – will you ever have to? Living in a comfortable home in a politically stable country such as ours, will you ever need to seek asylum?
  • Not sure why someone would say “I’m a bit racist”… If you acknowledge that you are, how can you be okay with that? The concept of racism doesn’t exactly have positive connotations…
  • Oh geez, there’s a Young Liberal on this show… Joy…
  • Visiting Villawood must be such a sobering experience… How can people hear about people killing themselves, and harming themselves, and think that life in these horrific detention centres is somehow ideal?
  • “He thought Australia was the land of freedom, and now he says ‘what freedom?'”
  • “I still don’t think that risking your life on a boat is the way to go” God, Darren, I don’t want to hate you but your comments are making it really hard not to. It’s so easy for you to make that call when you can barely understand what asylum seekers endure.
  • Raquel would never still “be friends with an African”? Congratulations Raquel, I would never be friends with you. So much ignorance contained in one person.
  • They empathise with their host families, but still fear the ‘other’ – that is, they believe what their hosts endured, but everyone else is a criminal and should be treated as such? What? That makes no sense. Their claims are valid, but everyone else can get stuffed? The participants still have a long way to go.
  • Not quite happy with how their perspectives have been altered just yet… Hoping their minds will continue to open during the next two episodes. They certainly have the capacity to open their minds more, I think – after all, they’ve agreed to be on this program, so they obviously want to challenge their own views, which is a trait I can respect.
  • I want to re-watch this boat scene and count how many times these people have said ‘fuck’ in such a short period of time…
Part Two –
  • God, shows like this really make you reconsider yourself. I can’t help but feel like a moron for complaining about things as trivial as friendship problems, and assessment tasks, and the HSC, when those problems truly are minuscule compared to what asylum seekers suffer through.
  • Darren imitating a kangaroo… Oh my…
  • Raquel’s “not too impressed” that she has to stay with these asylum seekers living in limbo. So it’s alright for millions of other human beings to live in such conditions, but god forbid you, a white Australian from western Sydney, should have to suffer for a week like this. My sympathies, you poor dear. Complain some more, please.
  • Can these guys stop complaining about Muslims? Let people have their religions, please. I’m not religious, but for some people, it’s a wonderful coping mechanism. Especially asylum seekers and refugees – if they’re religious, and believing in and praying to a god helps them, don’t trash talk their beliefs. Have some manners!
  • They’re being asked to teach English! This should be interesting… Raquel isn’t doing it, is she? I don’t want these children being taught to say ‘youse’…
  • Raye definitely seems to be taking to this whole experience. I’ve gained more respect for her so far – she seems to have a lot of empathy for these people, and seems eager to learn about their experiences, and keen to help in whatever small way she can. Such a change within her already! Hoping the others (minus Gleny, who is already great) can follow her lead.
  • I challenge anyone to see children living in conditions like this, and not have their heart break. It’s distressing enough seeing grown human beings living like this, but children who have known nothing else… It’s truly heart breaking. These children deserve a playground, they deserve sunshine, they deserve an education, and all the freedom I had growing up. All children deserve that, but so many don’t get anything at all. It’s so, so sad, and not enough is being done to help them.
  • Raquel thinks finding a new life somewhere is criminal? Seriously, how sheltered is this girl? And how ignorant does she want to continue to be?
  • This whole raid scene is so distressing. But at the end of the night, everyone confronting Raquel and putting her in the hot seat – that’s interesting. It shows how much they’ve changed – not Darren so much, and obviously not Raquel, but Raye and Adam definitely. I’m glad they’ve had a change of heart.
  • They’re in Kenya, and Raquel’s complaints keep coming…
  • It’s great that they have UN refugee camps, but: a bowl and a sleeping mat? That’s it? Countries all over the world really need to step up how much they give in aid – I want refugees to be provided with more than these simple things. I’m glad they have shelter and food covered, but the conditions aren’t much to write home about…
  • Raquel’s smoking – they have cigarettes in refugee camps now? No wonder she isn’t eating…
  • I swear, half my comments are about Raquel, but really, she’s so ignorant and fussy and it’s driving me insane. She’s 21 and she’s behaving like a 5 year old; isn’t she ashamed to be complaining like this when people who’ve grown up impoverished surround her? How is it easy for these refugees to live in these conditions, you moron?
Part Three –
  • Doctors Without Borders… What saints. People who do work like that make me wish I was in any way good at science, just so I could do the same!
  • These Iraqi survivors are inspiring. It’s good to remember that endurance is a truly universal trait – worldwide, humans are surviving, and they’re carrying on, and they’re hoping for a good life. Simple goals, and ones that everyone can identify with.
  • The family in the refugee camp is so friendly! Their reactions when being told about their family back in Albury are adorable, but the narrator is right – it is bittersweet. They’re hearing all about their family in Australia, building a better life for themselves, while this family is still enduring life in the camp. Follow-up show idea for SBS: reunite the family? Seeing these people cry is heart wrenching, but seeing them cry with happiness would be heart warming. Someone make it happen (Chris Bowen? SBS? Who do I need to call!)
  • I’m so happy to hear Raquel say “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” – I’m glad this whole thing has influenced her at least a bit.
  • The Iraqi family in Jordan are also so sweet! All of these families are so amazingly welcoming – no wonder the participants changed their views slightly; with such kindness presented to you, in such dire circumstances, how could you not react?
  • It really is amazing to think of how much our own personal experiences shape us. All of these participants have been shaped, in some way, by their experience – and I’m emotionally involved, and all I’m doing is passively watching the show. I think an experience like this would be amazing; despite the challenges, and the dangers, I’d love to do something similar – visit the refugee camps, visit these separated families, etc. It just looks so worthwhile.
  • Now they’re visiting some countries of origin for refugees… Iraq and the DRC. Wow, that’s… wow. Frightening, really, to think about. They’re escorted, respectively, by the US Army and UN peacekeeping forces, so that’s a positive I guess.
  • “Every day, it’s estimated that over 1000 women are raped.” And now I’m welling up. That’s so disgusting, and that doesn’t even begin to describe it. Ugh.
  • Why doesn’t enough aid reach the camps? Where is it going? Many governments (though not the Australian government) give a lot of money as aid… where is it going? You’d think it would get to the refugee camps in the DRC, considering how horrific the conflict is, and how many people would be seeking refuge from it.
  • “More than 100,000 civilian lives have been lost in Iraq since the war began.” Well that’s just great – casualties of a war with a scrambled purpose, and limited success. It’s very disturbing to consider that some of the most politically powerful nations on Earth have been funding a war that’s resulted in such losses.
  • “I don’t have to shoulder the guilt of the world’s poverty problems.” What a shame the experience didn’t transform Darren as much as it did the others. He’s still got this really narrow view of things – you don’t have to care about those living in poverty, because it’s another issue entirely? What an ass.
  • I hate this idea of “queue jumping” and “system dodging” so so much. I don’t think when you’re fleeing for your life, you have much choice regarding how you’re going to flee.
And that’s a wrap. What a great show – I really wish there was a way for it to reach a wider audience, though. The people who really need to see this wouldn’t watch SBS, and some probably wouldn’t have even heard of it. I just hope some people watched it, and left with a different perspective. I think that, and not viewer numbers, is a sign of a successful series.
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