Students in UCD are boycotting campus food services supplied by Aramark Catering, because of the company’s work with Direct Provision housing.
In 2013, Aramark secured the tenure to create an International Food Court in Gerard Manley Hopkins building, above the Global Lounge. As of 2017, Aramark still runs the main restaurant, which is the largest food outlet on campus, as well as Chopped, Subway, the cafe in the Sutherland School of Law and most catering suppliers at UCD campus events.
The boycott follows a similar protest by Trinity students of Aramark services on their campus, that resulted in TCSU passing a motion to lobby the college not to renew their contract with Aramark when it ends in 2021.
What is Direct Provision?
Direct Provision is a system of living for people seeking asylum in Ireland. Asylum seekers are people looking to be recognised as refugees, who have left their native country as they fear prosecution. The people living in this system are not allowed to work or cook for themselves and are provided an allowance of €21.60 a week. The system is often described as an “open prison”. The DP system was a originally intended to be a short-term accommodation plan, but, as the refugee acceptance process has slowed in the last decade, most people living in Direct Provision housing have been there for up to seven years.
Why are students boycotting?
Aramark cater for three Direct Provision centres in Athlone, Cork and Clare, accommodating over 850 asylum seekers. The government paid Aramark €5.2 million in 2016. Aramark directly profits from this system that has been routinely criticised for denying asylum seekers their basic human rights.
People living in Direct Provision centres that are carted by Aramark have described instances of malnutrition and hospitalisation. The food provided does not take into account the asylum seekers’ religion, dietary requirements or preference. In 2015, people living in an Aramark catered centre began a hunger strike in the hopes of receiving more diverse meal options.
Students who buy food from the main restaurant in UCD have the right to food of a certain standard, and the right to complain if that quality is not met, but people living in direct provision are not afforded this privilege.
Students are boycotting Aramark services with the aim of bringing awareness of Direct Provision to the student body and to work towards the removal of Aramark catering from campus. These students do not condone Direct Provision and believe that Aramark’s presence on campus presents the image that UCD students do, in fact, support this “dehumanising” system of living.
Muireann O’Shea – Film Editor