Photography exhibition offers a glimpse into the reality of life in Direct Provision

Posted On: 23 April 2014

One Year on and Still No Change_Photography ExhibitionMedia Release, 23 April 2014

Last April there was a national day of action calling for an end to the institutional accommodation of asylum seekers in Ireland. Today, we find ourselves one year on and still no change. The exhibition marks this anniversary and aims to raise public awareness about the human cost involved in the current system, in particular the impact on the children who are growing up within it.

“Three photographers have kindly donated images that make up three larger projects which explore different aspects of Direct Provision. These images and their accompanying text offer a glimpse into the reality of life in this system for those seeking international protection and speak of the detrimental effect it is having on the mental and physical health of the men, women and children who are residing within it”, said Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council.

“Recent research carried out by the Irish Refugee Council indicates the long term impact on people who have been in Direct Provision and the cost, not just to them, but to Irish society as well.  The overwhelming evidence is that we cannot afford to maintain the system of Direct Provision.”

Reuben Hambakachere, a recent resident of Direct Provision, said:  “My family lived in direct provision for over 8 years. As a parent, I have experienced the shame of having to tell my 8 year old daughter I do not have €1 for breakfast club. Marking important occasions such as birthdays had become a luxury I had foregone.  Bear in mind I was not asking for hand-outs from the state, but all I sought was a dignified life with a hope to be allowed to provide for my family and to be afforded the opportunity to contribute to society”.

The exhibition will launch on Thursday 24 April at 6pm. The collection is made up of contributions from Zoë O’Reilly, Rory O’Neill and the Asylum Archive and will run for two weeks on the interior walls of the Powerscourt Centre on South William Street.




Caroline Reid, Communications Officer 085 8585510

Sue Conlan is available for interview



The launch of the Irish Refugee Council photography exhibition, ‘One year on, and still no change’, will take place on Thursday 24 April, 6pm, The Powerscourt Gallery , Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 South William Street, Dublin

The exhibition will run for two weeks, 24 April – 8 May 2014

An IRC report on the impact of Direct Provision on people’s ability to become self-sufficient will be launched on 7th May.  Details to follow.

People can contribute to this event and help us to raise awareness about the impact Direct Provision is having on over 4,000 men, women and children by sponsoring the event:

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) is Ireland’s only national non-governmental organisation which specialises in working with refugees in Ireland. The main work focus is on those in the asylum system who are applying to be recognised as refugees.  For almost 20 years, the IRC have observed the changes that have been made in response to the arrival of refugees in Ireland.  Based on extensive experience working directly with those affected, they have seen the huge financial cost of a failed system and the untold damage that has and is being done to men, women and children in the asylum process.

The Direct Provision system:

No legislative basis;

No independent complaints procedure;

No independent inspection mechanism;

A system designed as a short-term accommodation solution;

Alternatives have been put forward, Direct Provision: Framing an alternative reception system for people seeking international protection;

There are currently over 4,000 people trapped in this system;

One third of them are children.

See: State Sanctioned Child Poverty and Exclusion, The case of children in state accommodation for asylum seekers

Photographers Bios:

Zoë O’ Reilly, ‘New Bridges’

These images form part of a collection of work entitled ‘New Bridges’. The twenty-one photographs and accompanying texts which make up this collection emerged from a four-month collaboration in 2010 between Zoë O’Reilly and eight individuals seeking asylum in Ireland and living in the direct provision system.

The project sought to explore the everyday experiences of living in direct provision in Ireland, from the perspectives of those living within the system, and to create images and understandings which look beyond the imposed label of ‘asylum seeker’, challenging the categories, assumptions and stereotypes that this label carries. All photographs and texts were created by the participants throughout the collaborative process. Some participants wished to use a pseudonym for their work, and others wished to remain anonymous. Names have therefore been changed in accordance with this.


Rory O’Neill, €19.10 & Other Stories

This work seeks to examine the complex system that is Direct Provision.  Asylum Seekers typically wait between four and ten years for a decision on their future. During this time they live in an institutional limbo.  The tension that this existence engenders in both the physical and mental space is heightened by issues of identity and the irreconcilable sense of home.

Rory O’Neill is a photographer based in Dublin.  His work is primarily concerned with exploring the asylum process in Ireland and how residents of direct provision confront the reality of an institutionalised world.

Asylum Archive

‘The archive has to be read from below, from a position of solidarity with those displaced, deformed, silenced or made invisible by the machineries of profit and progress’ (Sekula, 1983).

Asylum Archive’s objective is to collaborate with asylum seekers, artists, academics, civil society activists and immigration lawyers, amongst others, with a view to creating an interactive documentary cross-platform online resource, critically foregrounding accounts of exile, displacement, trauma and memory. Asylum Archive deploys a combination of practice-based fieldwork research methods, including photographs of direct provision centres and the use of found and abandoned artefacts, video and audio records with human rights activists and the documentation of reports, scholarly essays and newspaper articles on the subject of asylum in Ireland.

Asylum Archive is researching a particular time in recent Irish history, since the inception of direct provision dispersal system in 1999 to the present day, serving as a repository of asylum in Ireland and encouraging open debate around the treatment of people living within this system.