The campaign to boycott “Westland Eats” has been launched. Students have condemned Aramark – the company running the food outlets – for its involvement in direct provision.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Jessie Dolliver talked about the origins of the campaign: “We had heard whispers with Trinity having a contract with Aramark.” Dolliver and Stacey Wrenn, two students behind the campaign, sent a freedom of information request to College during the summer to investigate the contracts Trinity had with food and drink catering companies.
Dolliver said that when she and Wrenn discovered that Trinity indeed had such a contract with Aramark that they were “shocked and appalled”.
The direct provision system houses asylum seekers – often for years – as they go through the process of seeking refugee status. Condemning the system, Dolliver said: “To be kept in a centre and not given the freedoms any human being should be afforded, it is incredibly dehumanising. They suffer mentally and physically.”
The campaign is launching a petition tonight to get support from students. The group will deliver it to Trinity in the hopes of ending the College’s contract with the company.
The campaign launch saw four speakers, including people who live in direct provision centres, discuss their experience of the system.
Speaking at the event, Lloyd Sibanda, who is a resident of a direct provision centre and a human psychology student in Dublin City University (DCU), said of the system: “It definitely is incarceration.”
Sibanda talked about the difficulties for “people coming from horrible circumstances”. “It actually deprives you of choice”, he said.
Speaking about the perceptions of the public, he said: “People might say we are ungrateful because we have a roof over our head.”
Ellie Kisyombe, who is a member of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland and the co-founder of nonprofit Our Table – which aims to highlight the need to end direct provision through conversations about food – spoke at the event.
Kisyombe told the audience: “The system is meant to disable and cripple you.”
However, she had a lot of praise for the campaign to boycott Aramark food outlets: “I just want to get through each day without crying, but now I find comfort because of people like you. This is great support, but it’s only a small sample of the people out there, and those who don’t even know what direct provision is.”
The current Chair of the Africa Centre, Lassane Ouedraogo, encouraged the students present in their campaign: “This campaign is one of the most interesting I have seen.” He called on students to “investigate well” into Aramark’s role in the direct provision centres.
Ouedraogo spoke about the difficulties with the catering companies in direct provision centres: “It is hard for women and children in an environment that they are being fed what they don’t like. When they are given food that do not meet up to the expectations, particularly those who have medical issues.”
Students were invited by the activists to attend a national rally to end direct provision taking place on Saturday in the Garden of Remembrance.
Aramark is a US-based company, which has recently expanded its Irish presence, with the purchase of Avoca and the catering contracts in Dundrum Town Centre. In 2016, the company was paid €5.2 million by the government to serve food in direct provision centres in Cork, Meath and Limerick.
Trinity signed the contract with Aramark after it put out a tender for food companies to serve in the Hamilton restaurant and the Westland cafe. Costa, Freshii and Gastro began serving students last year.
However, since then, Freshii has closed.