August 29, 2018 / 5:22 PM / in 3 months

Refugee charities call Polish reality TV show 'poverty porn'

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Polish reality TV show that follows a group of locals as they meet refugees en route to Europe has been criticized as “poverty porn” by aid groups that accused producers of capitalizing on people’s suffering.

“Go Back to Where You Came From” follows six Poles as they travel to Iraq via the Balkans, stopping en route to meet asylum-seekers going the other way. Three are in favor of their country accepting refugees and three are against.

Broadcaster TVN, which will air the program later this year, said it wanted to foster debate and improve understanding.

However, aid groups Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) and Polish Medical Mission (PMM) said they had turned down requests to help the makers of the show, which they felt was unethical.

“Our beneficiaries went through trauma, escaped war, saw family members die and other terrible things,” Malgorzata Olasinska-Chart, who heads PMM’s humanitarian aid program, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The show most probably wants to play on those emotions that we wanted to protect.”

Most Poles oppose taking in refugees, with only 5 percent of respondents to a July survey by pollster CBOS saying their country should welcome people fleeing conflict unconditionally.

The nationalist ruling party ran its 2015 election campaign partly on its opposition to admitting refugees from Muslim countries and has refused to take in some relocated from other European Union nations despite pressure from Brussels.

Participants traveled “like refugees”, moving across camps in Serbia, the Greek island of Lesbos and northern Iraq during filming, carrying little with them, TVN said.

The journey challenged their beliefs, the broadcaster added.

“In almost all of Europe, the issue of refugees is one of the most important topics of discussion,” said Piotr Krasko, a TVN journalist who guided the group.

“Usually ... we have a very definite standpoint in this matter, but many of us have never met refugees, talked to them, got to know their history, learned how exactly they came to Europe and why they had to run away.”

He denied the show was unethical, saying the controversy was based on a misunderstanding, with most refugees happy to share their stories because they feel the world has forgotten them.

PAH spokesman Jakub Belina-Brzozowski said that even if the broadcaster had the right intentions it was wrong to focus on Polish people rather than refugees, likening this to “poverty porn”.

Some hoped the show would help change negative perceptions of migrants - among them Agnieszka Kunicka, a spokeswoman for Refugee.pl, which helps asylum-seekers in Poland.

“Television of course has huge power and if (the show) will be produced in the right way, I think it could help,” she said.

Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

0 : 0
  • narrow-browser-and-phone
  • medium-browser-and-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser
  • wide-browser-and-larger
  • medium-browser-and-landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser-and-larger
  • above-phone
  • portrait-tablet-and-above
  • above-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet-and-above
  • landscape-tablet-and-medium-wide-browser
  • portrait-tablet-and-below
  • landscape-tablet-and-below