Trinity students protested outside Westland Eats this afternoon to oppose the presence of catering company Aramark on campus.
Protesters gathered outside Westland Eats for an hour during lunchtime in the “Aramark Off Our Campus” campaign’s first direct action of the semester. Banners displayed during the protest included slogans such as “#BordersOffCampus” and “Westland Eats Funds Refugee Imprisonment”.
Westland Eats, a café located in the Hamilton Building, is operated by external company Aramark which has a contract with Trinity that runs until 2019. Aramark also caters for three direct provision centres in Ireland and accommodates 850 asylum seekers in Cork, Athlone, and Clare.
Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Ethnic Minorities Officer Navika Mehta explained: “It’s embarrassing and horrific that [direct provision] is being supported by our college through its partnership with Aramark.”
“Students have the right to protest against companies whose practices are in violation of human rights,” Mehta continued. “Students don’t want to be complicit in indirectly supporting direct provision.”
Trinity students launched the Aramark Off Our Campus campaign last year with the aim of permanently removing Aramark from campus through a series of boycotts and other protests. The campaign is pushing for College to decline to renew its contract with Aramark, which is open to being extended to 2021.
The protest coincided with Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Refugee Week, which sees a series of events taking place across campus in support of refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland. In 2014, TCDSU voted for a mandate to oppose the direct provision system.
University of Limerick (UL) students launched a similar campaign against Aramark last week, which operates several restaurants, vending machine, and cafés on the UL campus. UL Student Life, the representative body for UL students, intends to run monthly boycotts and demonstrations to protest Aramark’s presence in the university.
According to the 2016 annual report by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), Aramark was paid €5.2 million by the Irish state for its involvement in direct provision centres. Up to 2010, Aramark received €16 million from the state.