Originally Published in Right Now.
Right Now’s Asher Hirsch speaks to Mark Isaacs about his experiences working for the Salvation Army in the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre and about his new book, The Undesirables.
Right Now: When you landed in Nauru what were your first thoughts and feelings? Can you describe a little bit about what Nauru is like as a country?
Mark Isaacs: The first thing you notice about Nauru is that it is a really small country. There are about ten thousand people on it and when the plane comes into the land, the whole island is engulfed by the airplane. One of the asylum seekers thought he was landing on water.
It is extremely hot. We arrived just prior to the wet season and that took a while to get used to. The centre of the island is mined-out phosphate rock. in the centre of the mined-out phosphate rock is where the detention centre is, or at least the one that I worked at. It is a hot, barren landscape.
It is a very poor island. Around the edges you have these beautiful tropical beaches and palm trees, then you quickly realise dilapidated housing, deteriorated infrastructure, old and abandoned cars. There is no fresh food on the island and a high unemployment rate – there are a lot of people sitting around doing nothing. When Australia says, “we will give you a few billion dollars to hold asylum seekers”, it seems like an acceptable offer to a poor country like Nauru.
Going into the detention centre, what were you told by the Salvation Army about what you were meant to be doing there? Continue reading “The Freedom Interviews: Mark Isaacs”