Audiences around the country tuned in to watch Go Back To Where You Came From Live tonight, pegged as a groundbreaking insight into the complexity of mass human migration.
Labelled SBS's "most ambitious television event to date", the live broadcast/documentary special sent a group of eight well-known Australians into overseas war zones, all in the hopes of gaining first-hand experience of the global refugee crisis
Audiences were joined by journalist Ray Martin and SBS World News presenter Janice Petersen, who watched on from the “Nerve Centre” in Sydney as participants including former senator Jacqui Lambie, Spida Everitt, Gretel Killeen and Meshel Laurie left the comfort of their respective homes for the terrifying unknown.
Jacqui and Marina in Syria
Right off the bat, viewers were warned that the show may contain "unexpected elements", cutting to live shots on the ground in South Sudan and Syria. Martin and Petersen then informed audiences that Jacqui Lambie and immigration lawyer Marina had already been caught up in an attack in Syria - witnessing bursts of gunfire and being rushed to safety.
Sharing footage from the terrifying incident, which took place earlier this week, the politician and lawyer were quick to get emotional.
"We have these vests on, but people around us don't," Marina said through tears, a taut-faced Lambie handing her tissues. "I cry partly from fear, but partly from sadness."
Meanwhile, Lambie claimed that she did not feel scared, citing her strong faith in God.
"If it's my time to go it's my time to go," she said. "It's as simple as that with me."
In a pre-recorded documentary component, Lambie and Marina visited the home of Muslim migrants in Sydney, where they shared an intense discussion over the dinner table. Throughout the discussion, Lambie made it clear that she fundamentally opposed Marina's perspective on refugee policy - saying that she believes Australian politicians need to prioritise Australians.
Spida and Meshel in South Sudan
Next up, viewers were introduced to comedian and refugee advocate Meshel Laurie and controversial former footballer Spida Everitt, each of whom, we're told, lives in Melbourne and holds vastly different political beliefs. They're in South Sudan, where they have been given a strict security briefing - basically, be prepared for danger. As the unlikely pair seek out water, we learn that South Sudan is one of the most dangerous countries in Africa.
"Do people have guns in this neighbourhood?" Laurie asks.
"Yes," replies their driver.
"I've never been anywhere in my life where I've felt unwanted," Laurie adds - "where I'm looked at as though I'm a threat."
"There's no shoes here," Everitt observes.
Steve and Gretel in Turkey
Former prison guard Steve and TV personality Gretel Killeen were next up, visiting the war-torn city of Antakya in Turkey, where they were shown joining the Red Cross and delivering food to refugees on the Syrian border.
"There are a lot of people who don't deserve to come to Australia," Steve said a prerecorded interview.
He adds: "In fact, there are a lot of people who don't deserve to BE in Australia."
Killeen disagrees - referring to refugees as "an investment" in Australia and suggesting Steve's views could be thinly veiled racism.
"You're using emotion when we should be using common sense," Steve told Killeen.
"I'm definitely not a racist."
"You're not going to die here..."
Back in Syria, Marina and Lambie were warned about live landmines, with one local guide warning an SBS camera man not to move.
"Be careful my man, you're not going to die here," the local said, gesturing to some ground nearby.
As gunfire goes off nearby, Marina and Lambie once again had incredibly different reactions, highlighting to two sides of the refugee debate.
"It sounds terrible, but it makes me want to pick up a weapon and go help them," Lambie said, before firing a gun at a target.
Meanwhile, a clearly affected Marina spoke to camera, describing the sight of a decomposing body mere metres away. Speaking to Lambie later on, Marina distilled their fundamental difference in opinions - saying that it would be her gut reaction flee for her life, while Lambie would feel more compelled stay and fight for an ideology.
"Every day for three years..."
In an emotional highlight of the evening, Ray Martin told audiences that only 20 minutes earlier, during the show's broadcast, the show's production cameras witnessed a remarkable story unfold.
On the boarder of Turkey and Syria, Killeen and Everitt were on the ground as a man was reunited with his family, having waited at the boarder with a bunch of red flowers every day for three years.
"It's a little bit emotional to see this sort of stuff," Everitt said.
"It's a good story, but I'm still a bit worried because there are a lot of bad stories too."
Killeen added: "We've seen grandparents separated from their children, it's fantastic to have a happy story, but there are still so many others."
'Go Back To Where You Came From Live' airs over three consecutive nights, October 2 – 4, 8.30pm, LIVE on SBS Australia and streaming live at SBS On Demand.
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