A Polish reality show featuring Polish locals as they travel refugee routes to Europe in reverse has sparked controversy from humanitarian aid groups. Anti-migrant sentiment is widespread in Polish society.
"Go Back to Where You Came From," a reality show set to run on Polish television broadcaster TVN, follows six Poles traveling to Iraq, three of whom support Poland taking in more refugees and three against. Along the way, they meet asylum seekers traveling to Europe. The show will broadcast this fall, but there has already been an Australian version.
The six participants will leave Poland and traverse Germany, Hungary, Serbia and Greece. Then they will travel by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, with the final destination in mind being Iraqi Kurdistan.
Refugee aid groups, when asked to help the makers of the show, lambasted the program, describing it as "poverty porn." "Our beneficiaries went through trauma, escaped war, saw family members die and other terrible things," Malgorzata Olasinksa-Chart the head of the Polish Medical Mission's humanitarian aid program told Reuters. "The show most probably wants to play on those emotions that we wanted to protect."
The six Poles traveling en route to Iraq only have their passports, some water and a little bit of money to make the trek to Iraq. "How will this experience change their point of view on immigration?" the show exclaims. "In almost all of Europe, the issue of refugees is one of the most important topic of discussion," said Piotr Krasko, a TVN journalist who guided the group of six.
Poles overwhelmingly against migration
The wider Polish public is against migration. The Polish Center for Public Opinion Research (CBOS) reported in a survey from July that only five percent of Poles would welcome refugees coming to their country without condition. The European Commission set up a quota system where refugees from "frontline" countries such as Italy and Greece would be relocated to other parts of Europe, but so far Poland has not accepted one refugee as part of the quota scheme.
The largest party in the Polish Parliament, called the Law and Justice party or PiS, is notorious for its migrant policies, with its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski saying the country can't take in refugees because they "spread infectious diseases."
In an interview with the Polish new outlet "Press" Bogdan Czaja, an assistant program director at the TVN news broadcaster says he hopes the show will foster discussion in Polish society regarding migration. "We are aware that this is a politically sensitive and controversial issue," he said. "We want this to be part of the dialogue."
Australian show as template
The Australian version of the series premiered in 2011. A second season followed in 2012 and the series returned with a third season in 2015. The broadcaster SBS has announced the fourth season on its website: "Go Back To Where You Came From Live is one of the most ambitious live television events in broadcasting history, featuring opinionated Aussies who will discover what life is like in the most dangerous places on earth. Over three consecutive nights, Go Back Live will present a snapshot of the global refugee crisis by following refugee stories as they unfold in real time."
This is an episode of the Australian version: