The Reality Show That Sent Contestants To'..Syria!
Go Back To Where You Came From
LONDON: Drama is synonymous with reality TV, with programming aimed at winning over viewers with a combination of risk taking, adventure and theatrics. It’s a standard formula but one reality TV show from Australia may have taken it a little too far. "Go Back to Where You Came From” -- a multi-award winning show that is three seasons in -- nearly killed its participants as it dragged them through conflict-torn Syria, a country that is home to a range of militant groups including the nefarious Islamic State.
In a trailer for the upcoming season, Kurdish militants are seen escorting three of the show’s personalities across the Iraqi-Syrian border. As the group approaches Islamic State positions, guns start firing at them and a voice calls out “they’re coming for us.”
The Kurdish fighters and camera crew then rush the participants out of the damaged village, with the group taking shelter behind rubbled walls dressed in little more than a flak jacket.
The TV show aims to provoke a national debate about how the public responds to asylum seekers -- and to do so sends participants to witness first hand the conditions that refugees live in and deal with. As part of the show, Nicole, a detention centre whistle blower, Kim, a Stop the Boats Facebook campaigner, and Andrew, a tough talking school teacher -- got a lot more than they bargained for as they found themselves in a village in Syria.
(Nicole (left), a detention centre whistle blower, Kim (centre), a Stop the Boats Facebook campaigner, and Andrew (right), a school teacher).
“Probably the worst part was going as close as we could and knowing that their bullets could reach us. We were told to listen for any whistling sounds coming through the air and that would mean a mortar had been fired. We were told we had 30 seconds to run 100 metres,” participant Kim Vuga told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Her co-star Nicole suggested the group didn’t even know what they were doing. “When we crossed the border from Iraq into Syria, I kind of thought we would maybe go to a refugee camp near the border, meet some families, but once we crossed the border we drove for like four hours and it kind of dawned on me we were going to an active war zone.”
However, this isn’t the first time that the show has taken its participants to dangerous territory. Previous episodes have been set in locations including Baghdad, Kabul and Mogadishu.
(Still from the video)
(Still from the video)
Although this particular episode may have gone too far, the show itself is centred on a very pertinent issue in Australia -- that of immigration and Australia’s asylum policy. Australia has one of the toughest border policies in the world, turning away asylum seekers point blank. An incident in 2010 where the bodies of asylum seekers set for Australia washed up on the shore of Christmas Island sparked a debate on the country’s asylum policy.
The policy, dubbed “Stopped The Boats” has been criticised for being an abysmal failure, as asylum seekers set for Australia end up in detention centres in miserable conditions. Amnesty International and the UNHCR have criticised the centres for having inadequate health services, water and sanitation. Stuck in these centres with no idea of what the future holds -- many of these asylum seekers have attempted suicide and self harm. In fact, after these allegations of abuse -- Australia responded by making it illegal for government contractors to so much as discuss what they witness in those detention centers.
Currently, there are more than 20,000 or more asylum seekers living in limbo in Australia -- without any protection, right to work or of what will happen to them and when.
Therefore, whilst the central focus of the show is relevant, the question remains -- do stunts like the one involving the participants in Syria achieve anything other than high TRPs?