Angry Anderson, Peter Reith & Catherine Deveny meet Rezni.

The concern that the addition of “Celebrities” to the Go Back To Where You Came From experience would turn it into a sanitised soap box for the prominent Australians involved could not have been further from the truth. The soap box is still there – it’s more that the issues facing the participants are more compelling that a specific opinion.

Having S01 host/guide Dr David Corlett run the participants through some of what they’d experience in their refugee journey continues to be a strength of the series. His background in refugee issues and experience in dealing with them first hand means he knows better than most the emotions and circumstances involved when people run from their homeland leaving all they have (including, sometimes, the rest of their family).

Lining the group up – Allan Asher, Peter Reith, Angry Anderson, Michael Smith, Catherine Deveny & Imogen Bailey – the tensions were easily spotted early. No question Deveny was going to go after Reith, and there was no way Smith & Bailey were going to see eye to eye on many. Naturally when the groupings were announced, the protagonist/antagonist mix was spot on. Just time to surrender their wallets, phones and passports and they’re off.

Reith, Anderson & Deveny meet with Hamid – he was an interpreter for coalition forces in Afghanistan before fleeing to Australia. He’s a member of the Hazara ethnic minority, one of the most persecuted in the region. While there’s instant compassion and interest from Deveny, Anderson still fells “They came here in an inappropriate way”.

Smith, Asher and Bailey stay with Abdi and his family. Abdi fled Somalia when civil war broke out as a 13 year old, and arrived in Australia 20 years ago by plane using false documents and seeking asylum. They meet Abdi’s mother Alima, and his Australian wife and their children. “We’ll have to smile & eat couscous or some shit,” offers Smith, not long before they sit down to a meal with Abdi. The Somali refugee’s tale is harrowing – he ran to the border and escaped a death squad after playing dead.

The discussions after dinner and intercut with interviews beforehand offer an amazing insight as to where the show will be taking us:

“We stopped the boats.” — Peter Reith
“I put my life at risk to work with your troops and now you call me criminal. You see me as ethnic refugee.” — Hamid to Michael Smith

After their homestays, during which we learned that Bailey was dating a Muslim for 8 years at the height of her men’s mag modelling career(!), the group reassemble and are told they will be sent right now to two of the most dangerous cities on earth: Peter, Catherine & Angry to Kabul, Afghanistan; & Michael, Allan & Imogen to Mogadishu, Somalia (“The most dangerous city on earth”).

The arrival in Somalia for that group is amazing – the experience translates to screen incredibly well. Guns, desert, destruction – this in the capital of a country. Both groups are surrounded by a detail of armed guards, severely under threat of kidnapping. The Agfhanistani group have to wear armoured vests – and it’s not for show. To keep a low profile the group are told to wear traditional clothing.

The outing for Angry, Peter & Catherine to meet Rezni is, in itself, a harrowing journey but then to hear his story is incredible. Rezni was a refugee who was on the Tampa – at the centre of the Howard Government’s Pacific Solution authored by Reith – who was sent back to Afghanistan because it was deemed “safe”. Of the 312 people repatriated, Rezni knows of at least 11 that have been killed since their return. That’s not great odds.

“With a lot of people going through the system, mistakes are made.” — Peter Reith

A gripping return for Go Back, again making it compelling television for all who claim to have an opinion surrounding the asylum seeker debate. Spectacular work, Cordell Jigsaw & SBS. Bring on episodes two and three.

Go Back To Where You Came From – continues Wed/Thu 8:30pm, SBS one.