Living in Direct Provision

Visualising Migrant Voices: Co-Creative Documentary and the Politics of Listening

Crossing Over

by Joyce (2:33)

“I woke up this morning with a bit of ‘hot head’ and shivers, even though the room was heated. It is one of those days in Ireland when the sky empties her icy grains. Going to the GP is out of the question. I have seen him five times in one month. I know this is the pulse of frustration, whose height can’t be measured nor bounds determined by a mere stethoscope. This is my third year in the direct provision hostel and I have learned that asylum seekers visit the GP four times more frequently than “normal” Irish people.”

An Island Called Ireland

by Pierre (2:54)

“My dad dreamed of living on an island. Living on an island sounded so exotic. But should he feel happy for me because I now live on an island?
We settled on an island, an island called Ireland. I love how it sounds. However, we are experiencing how integration on this island is a long way away.” So begins Pierre’s story about the hopes and challenges he and his family face as refugees. His daughter, 10-years-old at the time, created the accompanying images.

I Have People I Left Back Home

by Mona (1:52)

“I don’t like to remember the day I left home or the way I left. It is too painful. What I do remember every day are my kids.” For Mona, like hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers throughout the world, leaving home has signified painful separation from loved ones. Since completing her digital story about the day-to-day reality of living apart from her eldest children, she has received leave to remain in Ireland. Currently, Mona is studying full time to be a healthcare support worker. She continues to hope for and work toward the reunification of her family.

Caged Escape

by Susan (2:51)

In 2015, after 10 years of living in the asylum system, Susan received leave to remain. Reflecting on the process, Susan noted, “At first I didn’t know if I could talk about it (living in direct provision). There’s a lot of fear. You hear rumors. ‘Don’t do this.’ ‘Don’t speak out.’ ‘If you rock the boat, you’ll have trouble.’ But, you want to make a difference; you want something to change. The system is still more powerful, but you take a chance. Sometimes there isn’t a clear or happy ending, but the process brings you closer to understanding yourself, and that understanding helps you to know where to go. It brought some healing for me; it helped me move on from where I was.”


by Vukasin Nedeljkovic (4:14)

Vukasin Nedeljkovic made all of the images in this digital story from inside the asylum system in Ireland throughout the year 2009.

Since completing his digital story, 69/851/07, Vukasin received leave to remain in Ireland and completed his MA in Visual Arts Practice at the Dunlaoghaire Institute of Arts, Design and Technology. Vukasin is interested in developing platforms for open dialogue about migration and asylum in Ireland, particularly the creation of collaborative spaces among artists. He directs and curates the Asylum Archive, which was invited into the Digital Repository of Ireland in 2019. Also in 2019, Vukasin received the Arts and Activism bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland.


by Evelyn (2:35)

“It was very painful leaving without you, not knowing if you were safe. Suddenly you were not there. They promised you would join me in two weeks. Two weeks that has turned to years. Your sister saves you a seat on the bus and at the dinner table. She asks when we will be a family again. I don’t have any answer to her question. I hope soon I will hold you in my arms again. I hope soon I can show you how much I love you my boy.”

New Ways

by Farrokh (4:02)

“What’s going on? What’s happened to me? I’m riding in an ambulance. My hand is broken. I’m wondering about the Ahmad I was and the Ahmad I am now. I never expected myself to do something like this.”

One man travels from his home country of Iran, searching for shelter, hoping to find “New Ways.”

The Living in Direct Provision series is comprised of photo films co-created with research collaborators over a production period of six months. This co-creative process of audiovisual production provided a unique platform to analyze asylum policy and the everyday circumstances of asylum seekers. During the participatory seminar, collaborators created the images, wrote the scripts, and co-edited the videos within a community of practice. In conversation with one another, and with mentorship from project director, Darcy Alexandra and other creative writers, photographers, filmmakers, and editors, research participants developed one lived experience of their choice into a short video for public screening.

As an experienced workshop facilitator trained in creative writing, documentary filmmaking, and digital storytelling, Alexandra engaged with participants through the development of their photographs and drawings, scripts, voiceovers, storyboards, and video editing. Ethnographically documenting the research site, Alexandra observed how people seeking political asylum in Ireland analyzed and interrogated their everyday living conditions in the “Direct Provision” system from the foundation of this production process. For example, as parents shared and discussed how and why they had made certain photographs, they revealed their concerns over the well being and mental health of their children. They expressed worry about how the experience of institutionalization spanning years might negatively impact real opportunities for integration in the medium to long term. They also recognized the ways in which their authority as the primary guides and caregivers of their children was being undermined by the rules and regulations of the asylum system and the enforced social and economic exclusion of life in Direct Provision hostels. The production process created dynamic ways for a heterogeneous group of people facing diverse stages of legality in relation to the Irish state to engage with one another across differences of class, language, ethnicity and race, gender, age, and education. As one participant observed, “I’ve been in research studies before where we were just sit in a circle and talk. This is the first project where we actually made something.” The act of making something together grounded the analysis and created the opportunity for the researcher to learn about the asylum system in direct conversation with asylum seekers.

The photo films from Living in Direct Provision premiered at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) in Dublin to an audience of policymakers, migration scholars and activists, and family and community members. Migration scholar Ronit Lentin noted that the stories were exemplary of research as the art of listening. They have screened at the Guth Gafa International Documentary Film Festival and internationally at conferences in the Americas and Europe.

The Irish government introduced the “Direct Provision Accommodation and Dispersal” system in April 2000 as an “emergency” or provisional system. Implementation of this system meant that adults could no longer work and study while awaiting a decision on their application for refugee status, rendering these individuals dependent on the State’s provision of food, accommodation, and weekly allowance. Individuals and families seeking protection were no longer entitled to live independently; instead, people who seek protection are placed in privately-run accommodation centers–often in isolated, rural areas, fostering state-mediated exclusion from Irish society. Since the beginning of the policy twenty years ago, Irish scholars, legal advocacy organizations, and community-based groups have widely criticized the direct provision system and called for the development of a systemic and comprehensive immigration policy that upholds national and international laws and conventions. For example, according to a 2003 report from the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC), the direct provision system “is gravely detrimental to the human rights of a group of people lawfully present in the country, and to whom the government has moral and legal obligations under national and international law.”

For further information about refugee and asylum concerns in Ireland, see the Irish Refugee Council website.

Living in Direct Provision Credits:

Director, Researcher and Workshop Facilitator – Darcy Alexandra
Executive Producers – Aine O’Brien, Alan Grossman
Post Production Supervisor – Aodán O’Coileáin
Workshop Contributors and Instructors – Darcy Alexandra, Aodán O’Coileáin, Keith Feighry, Veronica Vierin
Sound Technician – Spyros Kousidis
Collaborating Agency Coordinators: Monica Anne Brennan, Maeve Burke, Francesco De Salvia, Wale Mogaji
Funded by the Forum on Migration and Communication, in partnership with Refugee Information Service and Integrating Ireland