Jul 7, 2011

Go Back To Where You Came From: A Reaction

A few weeks ago SBS aired its controversial documentary/reality TV show ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ where six Australians had a firsthand experience of refugee life – from staying in detention centres in Australia, to halfway houses in Malaysia, Jordan and Kenya; to going back to where it all starts in Iraq and Congo – interacting with real refugees and learning their stories.

**SPOILER ALERT** - If you haven’t seen the show, I will be discussing some bits below, just you know.

The show has been hotly debated since and everything else apart, I think it was just useful in showing people some realities of life without first-world privileges and why people flee and seek refuge. The fact that it created a national debate is important in itself.

Denying asylum to genuine refugees is a violation of basic human rights - denying them the right to "life, liberty and security of person", at the very least. It’s as simple as a dying man asking you for a drop of water that will save his life and you turning your face away. Australia is a big BIG country and we have a lot of room for refugees and just a blanket “Stop the Boats” policy is not humane.

Yes, it is important to ensure we don’t encourage non-genuine refugees to take advantage of this. Integration and societal assimilation are very important too. But those are secondary issues. It’s easy to sit on your couch and pass judgment on the “queue jumpers” telling them to wait in line, like everyone else. It’s easy to say you would wait in line if you were in the situation. But if your life was in danger and you couldn’t see a way out, would you wait or would get on a boat to find some hope?

The show stirred many emotions in everyone – making some angry, some cry and making some others even more jaded than before. For me, there is a bit in Episode 3 that touched me more than anything else – where a man waits in a Kenyan refugee camp for his fate to be decided, having fled war crimes in Congo. He says something to the effect “…all we ask for is tomorrow”.

You and I, we take tomorrow for granted. We assume tomorrow will come.

What should I wear tomorrow?”; “How am I going to get through tomorrow on $10?”; “I need to call mum tomorrow”….We may stress about how to deal with tomorrow, and the tomorrows after but we never question if we will see tomorrow.

But for these people, there hope lies in just seeing tomorrow and they are literally living one day at a time.

His children talk about their dreams; dreams of becoming doctors, engineers, teachers…and it really puts things in perspective. If I dreamed about becoming a doctor, I’d only have to work hard enough for it. But for these kids, working hard doesn’t guarantee them the opportunity to realise these dreams. Yet, they dream. And they pray for tomorrow.

*This post is part of the NaBloPoMo challenge for July 2011.


seriseri said...

Very well written post, and you hit the nail on the head with the point about 'tomorrow'. I haven't seen the show, and I am not entirely sure about reality tv format on the issue (because  awareness/understanding of such complex issues is a long-term, subliminal process, and the idea that you can transform people and their prejudices through a televised episodic experiences is a bit bizarre, lazy to me ) but if this is what is getting people talking and thinking about the immigration/refugees debate in an informed way, that's great! Now if only positive public perception could influence policy making (which always seems at odd with ground realities) . . .

R.Bit said...

I agree. anything that gets people talking and encourages them to learn more about the issue is a welcome change.