Lives in Limbo – Asylum Seekers in Ireland





A section entitled “Lives in Limbo” on the The Irish Times website details the lives of migrants (asylum-seekers) residing in Ireland’s direct provision centres. It contains information on these centres and the current situation of those residing in direct provision. It states that the average time a person resides in direct provision in Ireland is three years and eight months. Also, Ireland has one of the lowest acceptance rates for asylum seekers in Europe.

The most gripping aspect of “Lives in Limbo” are the photographs of migrants, the photographs of living spaces, and a series of short, but gripping interview videos. Providing public access to photographs and videos of these migrants literally puts a face on the often abstract concept of asylum. The videos provide heart-rending accounts of life in direct provision. These people speak about not being allowed to work, mental health issues, and the lack of space, privacy, and independence. Most especially concerning are the video accounts of children who are faced with uncertainty on a daily basis. The children speak quite eloquently about not living in a “normal” home environment and about how they do not have space to play with friends or to study for school.

The Irish Times also published a map of the location of these centres in Ireland. In 2013 there were 34 centres with a capacity for 5,000 residents. A link is also provided to the Asylum Archive, which lists these centres and contains photographs of the buildings.


“Lives in Limbo” concludes with links to articles that were published in the Irish Times on various aspects of this topic. Of significant interest are “How asylum became a business” and “Could direct provision be the subject of a future government apology“. This month, the Irish President Michael D. Higgins criticised direct provision accommodation in Ireland, stating: “The system of Direct Provision by which they [asylum seekers] are put in to places of accommodation and may remain there for eight to ten years is totally unsatisfactory, almost in every aspect of it.”


Map of the Mexican-Origin Population in the US


The Economist has published a map depicting the current location of the Mexican-origin population in the US. This map is intriguing and enlightening as it also charts the 1848 border between Mexico and the US. Following the 1848 war, Mexico agreed to surrender half of its territory to the US. This included the present-day states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas (and parts of several other states).

Although the political border between these two countries changed 166 years ago, the population of those of Mexican descent living in these areas has remained high – this of course includes recent arrivals, but also includes those that can trace their origins back to before the “new” border was enforced. In many ways this map reveals the constructed nature of borders and reminds us that the historical context of any present-day issue is vital to a full understanding of a given situation. 



Map of Places of Detention in Europe


Recently, the group European Alternatives discussed an important map compiled by Migreurop. This map documents places of detention for migrants who do not have official permission to reside/work in European countries. Migreurop have undertaken this research, as there are no official records of these locations.

The most striking element of this map is the sheer number of places that are used to detain migrants. Furthermore, between 2000 and 2012 the number of detention centers increases from 324 to 473.

From the map, it appears that migrants in Ireland, who do not have permission to be in the State, are detained in prison facilities. The main area of detention is the Dublin region, where five prisons are utilized. Four prisons are identified for the rest of the country. It must be noted that these detention centers/prisons are different from “direct provision” centers (former nursing homes, hotels, army barracks, and holiday villages) where those claiming asylum reside. It is also evident from the map that the approach in the UK is quite different from Ireland, as migrants in the UK are detained in designated “camps for foreigners” and not in prisons.

Mapping “illegal”/irregular migrtaion


The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) has developed an Interactive Map of Migration (I-Map), available here. This site maps irregular and mixed migration patterns from African countries to Europe. One must be mindful of the agenda of this organization, but it provides a useful tool for understanding the broader context of migration to Europe and could be used as a teaching aid.