As of April 2013, 5,458 women, men and children were living in 35 Direct Provision accommodation centres in Ireland (RIA 2013) awaiting decisions on their claims for asylum. Direct Provision was officially introduced in Ireland in 2000, formalising an informal practice that had been in operation since 1999. Direct Provision has been criticised since its inception regarding its legal basis, as being inhumane, and for violating people’s human rights. Living conditions are thought to have numerous negative health consequences and lack of autonomy regarding the mundane arises repeatedly. Conditions increase isolation and complexly interact with expectations of oneself: what it is to be a woman, a man or a child: the development and negotiation private lives is obstructed. Family life is distorted and adults are infantilised, with long-term health consequences. It is a constant reminder of the ubiquitousness and intensity of state control over the person. Adding further to this callous oppression is the difficulty and stress of living a status of continued uncertainty, unsure whether determination of refugee status or deportation orders awaits.
This paper brings together existing discussions of Direct Provision in examining its interaction with personal lives in engaging with the mundane. It highlights the manner in which high levels of control are associated with institutionalisation and draws attention to long-term health consequences. A wide body of literature focuses on how we ‘do gender’ as an important process of identify formation, presentation of self and challenging gendered practices and norms. The manner in which institutionalisation interacts with gendered expectations is detailed, leaving little room for the development/challenging of gendered social identities and associated assumptions– all part of more dominant processes within Irish society. Such distortions marginalise an already vulnerable community of people and has serious long-term consequences for the women, men and children living in Direct Provision.