Undocumented in Ireland

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

Abdel's Story

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Abdel is originally from Morocco where he holds degrees in law and economics. He came to Ireland in 2003 with a permit to work in the IT industry. Despite Abdel’s job performance, his employer failed to renew his employment permit and Abdel became undocumented. In 2008 Abdel’s status was regularized once again through persistent advocacy by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) on his behalf, and he currently works as a caretaker in the Dublin school system. Abdel speaks Russian, English, Arabic, and French, and is the proud father of two children.

Lyubov's Story

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Lyubov was recruited from the Ukraine to work in the agro food industry in Ireland. Due to severe workplace exploitation she was forced to leave her job, and subsequently became undocumented. Lyubov struggled for over a year to find work to support her family. She explains, “I was under stress all the time and fearful of everything, even the mail because it could hold bad news. By volunteering with the MRCI Bridging Visa Camaign and making my digital story I realized I wasn’t alone. I came to believe in myself and my self-esteem was restored.” Currently Lyubov holds a work permit and is employed as a professional cleaner.

Zaman's Story

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Zaman was a columnist and entrepreneur in his home country of Bangladesh. In 2002 he paid several thousand euro to come to Ireland on a valid visa to work for an IT company, but upon arrival in Dublin, he discovered that the company did not exist. In debt and without employment, he became undocumented. Reflecting on the digital storytelling workshop he writes, “I gained confidence in myself through making images, and in telling my story I got inspired.” Since participating in the MRCI Bridging Visa Campaign Zaman has become documented once again. He has been an active member of the MRCI Restaurant Workers Action Group.

The participants of this project created a community of practice through small and large acts of boundary crossing, bravery, generosity and trust, all while dealing with not only the demands of every day life but also the uncertainties and fears of living without documentation. For five months–from summer to winter in 2007–participants came together to share stories, critically discuss concepts and images, individually craft and collectively produce the final pieces.

Through the ongoing development of a purposeful community of practice, the ideas, emotions and images shaping these digital stories emerged. While guiding this process, I observed how public spaces for reflection, dialogue, craft and creation are cherished, necessary and rare. I vividly recall the intimate details of the workshop, the unspoken moments we collectively negotiated as a community of learners and practitioners: the scent of bleach and washing powder as Lyubov rushed into class after work, or the tenacious burn marks around Zaman’s forearms and wrists –the physical sign of his labor as an Indian food chef. I recollect Edwina arriving with tea biscuits and chocolate treats, and Abdul sharing Tupperware containers full of home-cooked food for breaking fast during Ramadan. I remember participants arriving early in the evening and later in the night the university porters patiently asking us, once again, to please leave the building so they could lock up and go home. We were often the very last ones out of the building. Not only did Zaman, Lyubov, Edwina and Abdul access their ability to tell stories visually and voice themselves multi-modally, but they also inspired me with their sense of possibility, hope, and urgency to be heard and to affect change.

Credits Undocumented in Ireland: Our Stories

Director, Researcher and Workshop Facilitator – Darcy Alexandra
Executive Producers – Aine O’Brien, Alan Grossman
Post Production Supervisor – Aodán O’Coileáin
Workshop Contributors and Insructors – Darcy Alexandra, Aodán O’Coileáin, Siobhán Twomey, Veronica Vierin
Collaborating Agency Coordinators: Bill Aboum, Maeve Burke, Jacqueline Healy, Helen Lowry, Edel McGinley, Delphine O’Keefe
Funded by the Forum on Migration and Communication, in partnership with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI)