Saturday 24 September 2016

'They're coming towards us' - Australian reality show defends sending participants into ISIS warzone in Syria

David Kearns

Published 30/07/2015 | 12:52

Three participants were caught in a firefight between warring militants Credit: SBS
Three participants were caught in a firefight between warring militants Credit: SBS

An Australian broadcaster has defended its decision to send the participants of a reality show to Syria, where they were allegedly shot at by Isis militants.

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The Australian programme ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ claims it took three guests within 800 metres of a firefight between Islamic State and Syrian soldiers.

The three-part series sent ‘ordinary Australians’ to Syria, Baghdad and Myanmar to change people's attitudes towards asylum seekers.

The broadcaster SBS defended its decision to send people to war-torn Syria following the release of footage in which three of the six participants have to hide behind buildings to avoid gunfire.

One of the stars of controversial documentary said she was shot at by ISIS Credit: SBS
One of the stars of controversial documentary said she was shot at by ISIS Credit: SBS

“Righto, that’s rounds coming in. Stay down, OK,” an escort can be heard saying.

“Stay down, real low. Stay down below this wall. We don’t want them to know we’re here. They’re just in front of us.”

SBS confirmed that one member of the film crew had elected not to travel to the frontline because of safety concerns.

"Participants and crew were given the same information in security briefings," the broadcaster said.

The three-part series aims to provoke national debate about how Australia responds to refugees and asylum seekers Credit: SBS
The three-part series aims to provoke national debate about how Australia responds to refugees and asylum seekers Credit: SBS

"When tracing the refugee journey in Syria, the group was accompanied by a private security team who are experts on the ground and constantly monitoring the every-changing security risks from armed forces in the area, including ISIS.

"The situation captured on camera where the group were shot at was not planned, but not unexpected in a war zone.

"The armed security team were prepared for an event like this, and quickly took action to move the participants and crew to a safer location."

Kim Vuga, one of the participants in the series, told The Sydney Morning Herald that she was actually shot at by terrorists.

She revealed: "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.

“It was surreal I actually felt I'd climbed through my News 24. It was crazy to actually see a black flag in place."

According to SBS, the trio were being guided by Kurdish militants who were guarding a Syrian village from ISIS insurgents.

The documentary series exploring Australia's asylum seeker debate has already drawn headlines because of the controversial views of some of the participants, who said they feared Australia was being "invaded" by refugees.

This week a number of participants were sent to Thailand to learn about Rohingya refugees trying to make their way over the Malaysian border.

The group was forced to watch a video of a refugee woman being raped by three men before they were introduced to two 16-year-old boys who said they had witnessed human traffickers murder dozens of people who could not afford the border crossing.

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