Mark Isaacs is a writer, an adventurer and a football fanatic. He currently works in Sydney as a case manager for an asylum seeker settlement agency. From October 2012 to June 2013 he worked for the Salvation Army performing support work and humanitarian aid for asylum seekers in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre. While in Nauru he established the Recreations Program for the Processing Centre. This program included the first excursions that allowed men out of the camp, sporting competitions, running groups, and an ocean swimming program. He recently resigned from his role in Nauru.
On Friday 19th July 2013, it was reported in the Australian media that over 150 asylum seekers had rioted and razed the Nauru Regional Processing Centre to the ground. The Nauruan community were mobilised into an emergency police force in an attempt to subdue the men. Asylum seekers, Nauruans and Australian security forces were involved in clashes that left many asylum seekers seriously injured. Asylum seekers were arrested and placed into overcrowded jail cells with limited access to legal representation. The future of these men was in the balance.
In the aftermath of the riot, Australian and Nauruan government officials condemned the actions of the asylum seekers. For many Australians this proved that asylum seekers are dangerous, and destructive. It proved that Australia needs harsher immigration measures to restrict the arrival of more asylum seekers. For Mark Isaacs, who had worked with the men in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre over the previous 10 months, this riot was an inevitable outcome of a cruel and degrading policy. It was a reaction to a build up of injustices these men had suffered throughout their incarceration in Nauru.
Both devastating and encouraging, Mark’s vignettes of life on Nauru and interactions with the men on the island give readers a first-hand experience of the realities of ‘The Pacific Solution’. His unique voice and unbiased view allow readers to draw their own conclusions and holds up a mirror to the Australian government, and it’s policies. This book is not a justification of the men’s actions, it is an insight into life in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre in the lead up to that Friday evening. It is the story behind a riot. Australia’s hard-line stance on asylum seekers is increasingly polarising the community and regardless of political stance, this haunting and eye-opening book is one every Australian should read in an era of increased secrecy around Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.