Direct provision contracter defends ‘quality services’ to asylum seekers

University of Limerick students are planning boycott of Aramark-affiliated businesses

The Aramark leaflet that has been distributed at the University of Limerick. Photograph: Clodagh Guerin

The Aramark leaflet that has been distributed at the University of Limerick. Photograph: Clodagh Guerin

 

A company privately contracted to run three direct provision centres has defended its decision to distribute leaflets explaining its services for asylum seekers.

Aramark, a food and facilities management firm, said it wanted to ensure customers are “fully informed of the facts”. The move comes as students at the University of Limerick (UL) plan a boycott of Aramark-affiliated food retailers on campus.

The flyer, which appeared across the UL campus over the past week, is entitled ‘The Facts’ and states “direct provision is government policy”.

The leaflet says Aramark has “no say, influence or involvement in the establishment of this system or in the residency or asylum application process” but that the company supports asylum seekers by providing “quality services which help make their lives more comfortable”.

It adds Aramark “provides employment opportunities to former asylum seekers”, is “an ethical and responsible company” and provides employment for thousands of people throughout the country.

The group, which started out as a vending company in the United States in the 1930s, was criticised last week after a resident at the Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre near Moyross in Co Clare, posted on Facebook that she had been refused bread for her sick child.

Donnah Sibanda Vuma, who lives at the centre with her three children, has since been told she will receive an apology from Aramark after a staff member refused to allow her access to the canteen for milk and bread.

Students from the University of Limerick say the Aramark leaflets appeared on campus late last week after an article by Clodagh Guerin was published in the college newspaper An Focal.

In the piece, Ms Guerin accuses the contractors of direct provision centres of providing “poor services to keep costs down and generate more profit”, citing Aramark catering as one of these businesses. She writes that the food group has a strong presence on campus with concessions including “Starbucks, Subway, Chopped, Costa, Eden and Mexican Kitchen”.

Ms Guerin told The Irish Times a fellow student was handed the Aramark flyer while distributing copies of the newspaper at the campus Starbucks. She later tweeted a photo of the leaflet on Twitter which has been widely shared and says students are now planning a boycott of Aramark-affiliated food retailers on campus.

A spokesman for Aramark told The Irish Times a small group of students had recently begun questioning its services to the Department of Justice and that the its leaflets were distributed to ensure customers were “fully informed of the facts”.

“We are committed to providing all of our customers with a high quality service,” he said.

On Wednesday, a letter from the college newspaper to the institution’s president, Dr Des Fitzgerald, called for his support in a campaign to end direct provision.

“It’s hard to see how a spirit of inclusion and welcome can be achieved when the company you buy your morning coffee from is the same multinational that denies a slice of break to a sick child last week,” writes the letter, noting the university was recently designated a ‘University of Sanctuary’ because of its support for people in direct provision.

Aramark, which also controls Avoca, received €5.5 million last year to manage three reception and integration centres including Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre, in Co Clare, and centres in Co Cork and Co Meath.