Go Back to Where You Came From is the title of an excellent Australian TV series that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in immigration in general, and asylum seekers in particular. Especially if you are one of the many who wish they really would go back to where they came from.
I was reminded of this show today as I saw that the rights have been sold for this to be produced in a number of countries around the world including: Sweden, Germany, France, Norway, the Netherlands, South Africa, Canada and the USA. The Danish version will be shown soon and is called Send Dem Hjem (Send Them Home).
Basically Season 1 follows 6 ordinary Australians who cover the spectrum of opinions on asylum seekers: from Adam “Instead of harbouring them, we should just put them straight on a plane and send them back” to Gleny “I think we have the capacity to take more refugees”, and all opinions in between.
They begin by visiting refugees in their homes: a family who was resettled by UNHCR and a house with refugees who arrived in Australia by boat but who had since been given refugee status. The group is put on a refugee boat to experience how the journey to Australia might be like, flown to Malaysia – a middle country for refugees on their journey to Australia. Half the group visits a refugee camp in Kenya to see how life is like for those waiting to be resettled overseas, the other half visits Jordan and meets with the family of some of the refugees they first met in Australia. Finally they go all the way back to two sending countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.
There is a strong feeling in Australia, reinforced by the media, of refugees, or more specifically ‘boat people’, as ‘queue jumpers’, coming to Australia for economic reasons, skipping ahead of people who might be in more need, and taking advantage of public funding once they get here.
One of the things Go Back to Where You Came From has achieved is to show the general public the human side of the refugee story, to touch on why people flee, the long and arduous journey they go on, and the challenges they face even when they arrive in a safe country like Australia. All the statistics in the world can’t change a persons mind in the same way first hand experience can, an opportunity to empathise and the beginning of understanding how it must be to be in the shoes of a refugee.
When it’s all over, it lets you ask yourself the question ‘if my family was in danger, would I jump on a boat and try to come to Australia’ in a slightly more honest and more informed way.