Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM” SBS program on experiment retracing the steps some asylum seekers take to reach Australia.

SBS reality program “GO BACK WHERE YOU COME FROM” is an experiment re Australians’ perception of asylum seekers.

Over 3 nights, a reality-style program is shown of an experiment where 6 volunteers with preconceived ideas against asylum-seekers and refugees in Australia are exposed to the experiences of the actual refugees coming to Australia or waiting for resettlement in various parts of the world. Over 25 days, 3 females and 3 males, ranging in age from 21 to 61, spent a week living with Australian resettled former refugees from various countries. Then they were put on a (supposedly) leaky old boat out of Darwin where they had to experience what desperation would drive anyone to undertake such a journey. Afterwards they were flown to Malaysia and on the final part of their journey 3 were sent to Jordan and 3 to Kenya, as the first destinations of those fleeing their own countries.

Having seen the expressions on the faces of those inexperienced Aussies who were suddenly transported out of their comfort zones into these dangerous, ugly, crowded, dirty foreign environments into the lives of actual refugees was for me quite funny! They had had no idea what they were in for and no one could blame them for being absolutely freaked out with what they were confronted!

For us older Jews who had had refugee experiences ourselves, none of it was so strange, though nowadays we are thankfully too spoilt not to feel exactly the way these volunteers were feeling. The youngest girl was far too immature and spoilt to be able to feel anything for the refugees anywhere at first. She just seemed to hate everything about them and her part in it. The older women related very sympathetically, particularly befriending the children and feeling very sorry for them and their parents. One of the guys could not understand how anyone would put their women and children onto these dangerous boats, while the others said they would do so, just to get out of the hell-holes they would have found themselves in!

I look forward to the concluding segment and to see if all the volunteers changed their views. Personally, after 2000 years of wanderings and constant feelings of insecurity and history of displacement and expulsions, pogroms and eventually the tragedy of the annihilation attempt of our people in the Holocaust of WW2, thankfully we Jews now know we have one place on earth where we are welcome and from where we will never be turned away. This is why most Jews are and must remain staunch Zionists,- from near and far! The protection of Israel,our eternal spiritual Jewish homeland must be every Jew’s sacred duty and responsibility!

Most of us Jewish people have grown up with the need to remain forever vigilant against racism of any kind,- because anti-Semitism is part of it, if not as usual its first manifestation! For successive Australian Governments, it is a dilemma re what to do about the continuing stream of illegal boat-people arriving unexpectedly on our shores! These days of Islamic terrorism and Islamic extremism of all kinds world-wide, they are making Australians very nervous and xenophobic. Governments lose elections, or win them by appearing strong against the flood of leaky boats coming across the oceans to Christmas Island, with many of these hapless people being lost at sea in the process of trying to reach the promised land of Australia. Chasing the people-smugglers on the one hand while on the other they are looked upon as saviours by the desperate,this is also very problematic.

Spreading these refugees out among the Pacific island nations sounds to me a better way of handling them, than just putting them behind bars on Australian shores. What is wrong with Howard’s Pacific solution, apart from it being Howard’s? From there they could apply officially to be accepted into Australia and resettled at a proper rate and probably many would be able to do so,- legally. Some may even choose to settle where they are.

It seems to me that the Australian public and the government acts with more alacrity and humanely to safeguard cattle than they do to help the human flotsam and jetsam that comes ashore in Australia as asylum seekers.

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