The Union of Students Ireland (USI) have announced that they are to protest outside Avoca on Suffolk Street in Dublin this Saturday. The action is to highlight to shoppers the ties that Avoca has with Aramark, a global company who owns Avoca. The Union are calling for Avoca management to cut ties with Aramark in the New Year as part of Avoca’s New Years Resolution. Aramark run three direct provision centres in Ireland as well as providing much of the catering services within UCD.

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.

Speaking ahead of the protest action, USI President Michael Kerrigan said “The situation in direct provision is cruel, and people are stuck there for up to 7 years. People can’t work, people get just over €20 a week, and people have little to no access to fresh fruit, no access to self-catering or ethnic foods. People trapped in direct provision just have access to meals with chips almost every second day with a menu that only changes every fortnight. This will be one of the biggest shame’s on the Irish state since the Magdelene Laundries.”

“Aramark is a US owned company which provides the catering for 3 direct provision centers”, Mr Kerrigan added. “It’s big, and it doesn’t care about small protests against its own name, as it doesn’t sell it’s own products. Aramark bought out Avoca during the summer from an Irish family, and it’s quickly becoming one of their most important assets. This will be highly impactful two days before Christmas. It’s Avoca’s busiest shopping period, and we intend to highlight Avoca and Aramark’s ties to direct provision.” he added.

The protest will take place at 1pm on Saturday 23rd December at Avoca’s Suffolk Street store. The USI are also encouraging students to sign an online petition which demands that Avoca cuts ties with direct provision centres until standards in those centres improve. The event page for the protest can be found here. 

Rachel O’Neill – Editor