Direct Provision resident says Direct Provision is “meant to distract and disable you” at boycott Aramark launch

The student group Aramark Off Our Campus launched a campaign to boycott Aramark, the Westland Eats caterer, tonight in the Robert Emmet theatre. Ellie Kisyombe, member of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), Lassane Ouedraogo, the Chair of the Africa Centre and Lloyd Sibanda, a resident of a Direct Provision centre and student of Human Psychology spoke at the event.  The campaign will officially launch their online petition tonight.

The campaign started during the summer, when Trinity students Stacy Wrenn and Jessie Dolliver sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to confirm that Aramark did have a contract with Trinity.

Speaking at the launch, Dolliver said: “That fact that there was no consultation about Aramark on our campus shows that we are not as liberal of a campus that we think we are. We think Trinity students have a right to choose what we support and what we don’t support. We believe that students in Trinity absolutely have the right to veto companies that are allowed on our campus”.

Lloyd Sibanda, a resident of a Direct Provision centre in Ireland and a student of Human Psychology in Dublin College University (DCU) spoke at the event. Sibanda gave an in depth account of his time in a Direct Provision centre in Ireland. He “congratulated Trinity students for the campaign against Aramark because “the direct provision culture is a horrible culture”.

Sibanda said he was told he “should be happy about a situation” which did not benefit him and that did not allow him have an education.  “You don’t have a choice over toothpaste or food…You  have no  choice over very simple, basic things in your own life. You can’t even cook for yourself. These same companies we are here tonight to talk about, they don’t care about us, they care about what is cost efficient.”

Sibanda also spoke about the ordinary things in his life that he has no power over. “If i wanted to see my friend I had to sign out” and that he “could not study late as most of the beds in the rooms are one metre apart.”  

“Direct Provision is a situation that doesn’t even allow you to remember what you used to be like.”

Sibanda also mentioned that a student lost her bed space in the centre because she was at college studying. Another attendant described that he lost 11 kilograms in four months in a direct provision centre  because there was no choice over the food options supplied by companies like Aramark.

Ellie Kisyombe, member of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) and current resident at a Direct Provision centre said the system is “meant to distract and disable you” and said Direct Provision is a “lose lose game”. Kisyombe added that is was campaigns like this one against Aramark that kept her and many others going in these centres.

In 2015, the Westland Cafe in the Hamilton was replaced by the Aramark-run Westland Eats — which consists of Costa, Freshii and Gastro — who were awarded the contract following a public procurement competition.

Aramark provide catering to three direct provisions centres in Athlone, Cork and Knockasheelin in Co. Clare, which accommodate 850 asylum seekers in total, for which the State paid Aramark €5.2 million in 2016.

Direct Provision system provides services for asylum seekers in Ireland. Although intended to be an interim solution, most asylum seekers in Ireland have spent over four years in Direct Provision, according to Nasc Ireland, an immigrant support centre.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) have stated that “food available [in direct provision centres] may not be suitable to cultural and religious beliefs of residents”. They also state that “there are cases of malnutrition among children and expectant mothers”.

Asylum seekers are given an allowance of €21.60 a week and are not allowed to work, however, Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan announced in October that the government would attempt to allow asylum seekers in Direct Provision to work.

Sarah Meehan

Sarah is a 2nd year German and Economics student.