In response to the launch of the campaign to boycott Aramark on UCD campus, Aramark have released a statement to the University Observer. Aramark provide catering for three out of the 35 direct provision centres in Ireland. The boycott campaign has been set up by students who believe Aramark are profiting from a system in which asylum seekers are ill-treated.
The statement from Aramark refutes claims that asylum seekers are ill-treated in any centre in which Aramark operates, and has been reproduced in full below.
Aramark is an award winning integrated services supplier of facilities management, food, property and energy services in Ireland. Our origins in Ireland go back fifty years to 1967 and today we support thousands of jobs in public and private sector organisations across the country, including in UCD. We operate to the highest international standards and deliver high quality services in all our clients’ sites.
Aramark provide services to just three of the 32 RIA centres in Ireland. It is important that readers understand that Direct Provision is Government Policy and Aramark has no influence in this regard. Aramark staff are dedicated to supporting residents in these three RIA centres and to making their lives as comfortable as possible while their application for asylum is being processed.
One of the most important initiatives in this regard has been the establishment of a retail unit in Athlone RIA where residents now buy and cook their own food. Cooking facilities have also been installed in a second RIA centre serviced by Aramark to allow residents to cook for themselves and we hope to introduce cooking facilities in the third centre this year.
In each of the RIA centres where we operate, residents have direct input into the menus developed and food served in our restaurants. Aramark Chef Managers and Centre Manager set up Food Committees with the residents and hold regular meetings to discuss menus and variety. We serve ethnic dishes, as well as Halal meat and we have also set up training kitchens for residents to work with our chefs on ‘home dishes’ which we then run as part of the wider menu cycle. Our chefs and catering teams also voluntarily change work rosters during Ramadan.
We take our responsibility to the health and wellbeing of those we serve very seriously. Providing nutritious, locally sourced, quality food is a major part of that and our chef managers and company dietitian work together to develop nutritionally balanced menus that promote good health.
Strong and positive relations and special friendships develop between Aramark staff and the residents they serve. Aramark staff have been honoured to be asked to become godparents to children and to be witnesses in marriage ceremonies by residents. These residents recognise the efforts of our company and our staff going above and beyond what is required to help them with life in Ireland.
One resident said: “All staff of our Aramark is very helpful and very good and I am living here 4 years and the day first to until know (sic) I don’t have any problem. They treat us like our family and manager Breda also treats us here like our own family. I don’t have words to say how much thanks I must say to them”.
Another resident explained “I am from South Africa, seeking asylum in Ireland. During my stay here I have met the reason why I chose to seek asylum in Ireland. The friendly, polite, charming, caring concerned management and all the staff of Kinsale Road”.
We introduced Social Liaison officers who assist residents with social support while they are resident in the centres. We also host onsite entertainment at Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Eid as well as summer camps and activities for children during the holidays. Staff also volunteer and organise day trips and events in their own time. “Thank you for being awesome to me and my boys”, was the heartfelt thanks from one resident to staff.
We also put in place supports to help residents integrate into the local communities in which they now live. This is very important to us and ensures better understanding and support for asylum seekers from the local community. Some of the activities arranged and supported by Aramark and our employees include open nights where local support groups and clubs in the community came to the site to invite residents to join in activities and arranging voluntary work for residents with St Vincent de Paul.
Our support for residents doesn’t stop when they obtain residency. We assist residents with their move into the community including helping with applications to social welfare and providing practical support as they set up new homes. We also employ former residents in our local business once their status is confirmed.
While direct provision remains government policy we will continue to work with the Reception and Integration Agency to help residents live more comfortably while they wait for their asylum application to be processed.