Athlone Asylum Seekers Refuse Food.

In Blog, politics by Rashers Tierney12 Comments

athlone

This picture of the centre was taken from the Asylum Archive page.

 

Reports have just come in, via the Irish Refugee Council, that the residents of Lissywollen Direct Provision Centre in Athlone have been refusing food since yesterday.

Those living there collectively outlined their main frustrations with management of the centre at the start of the month. So, far there has been no response. This not the first time that the catering company involved in running the centre has been shy when faced with complaints. That company is called Aramark.

During the May elections,  local Councillors were publicly challenged over conditions at the Lissywollen site. While most were critical of it, one in particular, a called Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran declared it to have a “state of the art catering company” and described the meals as “splendid.”   Accounts filed by the US owned group show €180.7m in revenue was recorded from its operations in Ireland with 13.5pc in the UK and 5.6pc in other countries. The company has also been awarded the Food and Beverage contract for Croke Park.

An inspection report was carried out by the Reception and Integration Agency on November 14th 2013 and a letter was sent to management informing them that “a number of issues were raised and you are required to deal with any hazards or risks detailed in this report immediately.” A follow up letter was sent on 2nd of January 2014 as no response had come from management according to the RIA.

When a response did come from Aramark, it was oddly dated December 4th and outlined some of the work done which included simple things like replacing washing machines that were “out of commission at the time of the inspection.”  They also provided more outdoor play equipment, as well as games consoles, a new TV and pool table inside. It’s believed nearly 60% of those living in direct provision at the centre are children out of a total 257 occupants.

The company has been popping up in news reports here for a while. Back in October 2012, a closure order was served on them under the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act over the kitchen and related areas at the same centre

Those that have come through the direct provision system have previously told rabble that fear of reprisals prevent protest, but this is the second resident led action to break out in under a month. Residents in Mount Trenchard in Limerick undertook hunger strikes and are still the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) to respond to their calls to have the centre shut down.

What follows are extracts from the letter sent to management:

 “Residents are not happy that management act swiftly on hearsay and yet take no action on serious issues which affect our day to day living, which have been highlighted to you. This is quite concerning and instills no confidence that you have our best interests at heart.”

“Residents have been complaining for a long time about the standard of the food that is served on a daily basis. Nothing has been done in this area, instead, people have been told statements such as: “You have come to Ireland, you have to eat Irish food and if you don’t like it, go back where you are came from.””

“Things are changed whenever it suits management with no explanation or consultation with the residents is made.”

“The small carton (of juice) children receive whilst in school is too small for teenagers to last them from 8am – 4pm. We are also supplementing our children’s lunches, which is another expense off our small weekly allowance.”

“We are given salad ingredients to make salad in our own mobile homes, often it is not washed properly or has gone off.”

“When issuing bread, please consider the size of the family as at times, 1 loaf is not enough for a big family for 2 days.”

“Seat covers in the mobile homes and mattresses and bed linen should be replaced as most of it is in a terrible state.”

The company at the centre of this dispute, Aramark Ireland, traded here in the past as Campbell Catering and it’s a subsidiary of a larger US operation and integrated services group. While it claims to be in the business of “delivering experiences that enrich and nourish lives every day” –  a section about its ethical reputation on Wikipedia will leave you wincing.  Earlier this month, Aramark in the US was fined for the provison of poor prison food and found itself hounded by a Detroit Free Press investigation that uncovered plenty more unsavory shenanigans.

Clearly someone has sent the US outfits brand bible of cutting corners and courting controversy to those running the show in Athlone and they are applying it with gusto.

Comments

  1. Carlos Fandango via Facebook

    ask my bollox, better looked after than the homeless in this country

  2. Joey Reilly via Facebook

    Well if the food is anything like the breakfast I got on Ryanair the other day I wouldn’t be eating either.

  3. Fiona Hegarty via Facebook

    For those who are making racist comments ya may need to look at your values & beleifs. You stand for rights & injustice but yet are making statements such as them, take up a mirror and look at yourself you must be perfect!!!

    1. Declan Kelly

      Fiona. Who has appointed you to make judgement or to accuse people of racism. Half the problem with asylum seekers is that people are not free to discuss the matter openly with getting called racists.

      Are you going to tell me that the majority of “asylum seekers” are genuine or could the underlying reason they are seeking asylum be that they would not be able to gain entry to Ireland by following legitimate avenues.

      Native Irish people are emigrating in their droves the last number of years to find work. Some of the conditions they find themselves in are no better than these camps. Working people in Ireland are losing more and more if their income to the government which in huge debt.

      Yet you side with these aliens that are getting housed and feed for free?

  4. Gillian Gill

    These people have come here seeking asylum, they have come from the most terrible and frightening conditions. The least we can do is give these families a decent meal. They are not allowed to work in Ireland, and are given a miserable €19 a week to live on. How on earth is a family supposed to survive on a half loaf of bread and stale salad? It wouldn’t cost that much extra to supply health, edible food.

    Haven’t these people already been through enough hardship without this kind of treatment?

  5. Gillian Gill via Facebook

    These people have come here seeking asylum, they have come from the most terrible and frightening conditions. The least we can do is give these families a decent meal. They are not allowed to work in Ireland, and are given a miserable €19 a week to live on. How on earth is a family supposed to survive on a half loaf of bread and stale salad? It wouldn’t cost that much extra to supply health, edible food.

    Haven’t these people already been through enough hardship without this kind of treatment?

  6. Bob

    I left Aramark Ireland after 3 years of working for the most unethical, unscrupulous and greedy corporations I’ve ever worked for.

    This company spends millions annually on presenting itself as a slick top notch service provider, who has built a customer base on providing quality, ITS A TOTAL SHAM. I cringe every time I find out they’ve secured a contract to provide food. The food is highly processed, often stale and generally unfit for human consumption. Just read the thousands of reviews online.

    Whatever service you are looking for, don’t consider Aramark, if you do, you’ll regret it.
    There a disease, that infects any organisation that is unfortunate to get involved with them.

  7. joe odiboh

    PROFIT BEFORE ASYLUM SEEKERS

    The visit by the Minister for Equality, New Communities and Culture Aodhain O’Riordáin to Globe House Sligo on the 17th Day of October this year is a visit of hope for all asylum seekers in the Direct Provision System in this country. It is a visit of realization of the great hopes and aspirations which over the years we have held so dear to our hearts as victims of violence and torture, institutionalized living and unholy circumstances beyond human expectations and an asylum seeker’s comprehension. The plights of asylum seekers in this country is something beyond human judgement because experience is the best teacher. We believe the visit of the Minister has energized us, reinforced our destiny and become a source of hope to end the daily nightmares in our lives. How effective this visit and the work of the working committee set up by the Justice Department will be to right the wrongs and injustice in our lives will be that for which history and posterity will vindicate the just.

    Seeking asylum in this country is not a crime against humanity, but a necessity as victims of circumstance in our quest to seek solace, love, safety and security of life, and sanctuary in this great nation, as we do not wish to go back to bad dreams. Even people who have created heinous and abominable crimes in society are often granted pardon and are more likely to be eligible for parole after serving a part of their sentence. But here we are as asylum seekers in Ireland with institutionalized living, dehumanized without dignity to human existence and not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Many of us have been living in the hostels with two or three people in a single room, and a family of six or less with children are confined to a single room for a period of up to fourteen years or less as the individual case may be or may not be.

    Though we advocate for the abolition of the Direct Provision System, we must confess that the length of time that residents have been living in the Hostel is very unfortunate. (Residents live here for years up to 10 years already). Here in these hostels we grow old, our babies grow up to become teenagers, our parents and relations grow old back home and die without being able to be part of their funeral ceremonies. We weep here in silence inside our little crowded rooms on top of our beds, there is none to care. It is like walking in a lonely street. We become helpless and hopeless, there is nothing we can do. We weep and cry in vain. As we kill the time, the time kills us. Like sheep in the field, we do not know when the chicken will come to roost. Hope turns to despair.

    The numbers of children that reside in the hostel, and the negative impacts that the length of their stay has had on their safety, protection and physical and mental well-being is a matter of great concern. These children are innocent and have become victims of circumstance in a vicious system in human lives. We seem to forget, that these children are the future of tomorrow. The question is that what lessons are we teaching these children? What legacy are we leaving behind for the future generation? They should be allowed to own their own rooms in their own houses like normal human beings, like their school mates in the class or peer group in the creche. Children born into this system and who grow up in it do not know the difference between a house and a room. All they know and grow up in is a single room without privacy between couples and their innocent children. Their eyes are forced daily to see certain things their eyes were never meant to see. They look at each other daily inside the room, love turns to hate. Anger becomes mental problems. The mind starts to think of what it should never have thought about. This continues for years until comedy or tragedy strikes. There is none to care.

    Yet, all the money being paid by tax payers in this country for the rehabilitation process of asylum seekers do not go to homeowners or into the micro economy, but direct into the coffers of the treasury of those appointed by the Refugees Integration Agency, RIA to manage the affairs of those in the Direct Provision System. It is a draconian system of putting profit before human dignity and a right to fundamental human life. The opportunity cost of Direct Provision System is the pains, tears, and suffering of asylum seekers and the children in this institutionalized poor and unholy living conditions. An asylum seeker who gets a weekly social welfare check of about 186 euros, only gets 19 euros 10 cents as cash for miscellaneous expenses. The rest goes to the brokers or the business concern given the responsibility to perpetuate the issues of Direct Provision System of the asylum determination process in the name of the Irish public. Because of this business, and like the mines, mine owners and miners, human wants and needs as well as human dignity to life and a better tomorrow has become a financial concern of profit before people. That is why it survived for too long and for so long when in fact it was meant to be a temporary system not supposed to last for more than six months in the life of mother and child.

    We are being discriminated against by not being afforded the opportunity for educational growth and development. We are not being allowed to study for FETAC 5 and in the tertiary institutions such as the IT and University. This is a deprivation of human rights and an affront on our progress. This is not healthy for our physical and mental health, and the health of this nation’s economy. We should be given the opportunity to contribute our quota to intellectual development, skills acquisition, and provide a buffer tank for ready-made labour to the labour market in this country. We want to use our educational growth and development to contribute our quota meaningfully to the social, political and economic growth of this great nation, and strive to make this country one of the greatest nations on earth. We want to be like such people like Bill Gates, great actors and actresses, great technicians and engineers, great medical doctors and physicians, great scientists, great contemporary artists and strive to be the best that we are as true ambassadors to the land of our birth. We cannot do this if we are educational hampered and jeopardized, and our potentials and mental development washed down the drain.

    The unknown length of time that it is taking to process our applications is terribly long whereby eating deep into the pockets of tax payers in this country. There are people in this hostel who are married to Irish citizens and those with Irish born kids. Their applications are stalled for years. Other residents have lived in rooms for years, eating the same food for ages on end, not being allowed to eat whatever we wish to eat like normal human beings while our applications are in limbo. Whether we like the food or not: whether we eat the food or not: whether we sleep in the boarding or not, whether we miss your meals or other rations or not, and are hungry: like a tickling time bomb, business goes on for years. The Irish people are quiet because they were not rightly informed about the state or fate of asylum seekers in the land of their birth. And if an asylum seeker stays away from this hostel for more than three days without signing the attendance register, even the 19 euros and 10 cents for that week will go back to the social welfare system, confiscated. If we work and pay tax, we are forced to return the earnings back to the system. They do not care to know if the earnings was meant to pay a child’s school fees or for food back home. They do not care to know if it was for an aging mother back home or for her medications. Even so, we are prohibited to work like prohibited persons. That is the way life goes on in this system.

    All these take us back to bad dreams as we face our daily nightmares. During this application processing period, all that is expected of us is to eat and sleep for years without being able to use our energy for meaningful growth and development in this country. Any man and woman on earth who eats and sleeps without doing anything meaningful for community growth and development is like a garden full of weeds, or a tree that does not bear fruit. There is a lot we must be allowed to do for community growth and development and give back to the Irish people who kept us and nourished us.

    With proper education and skills acquisition comes employment. The impact of this length of time on our capacity to enter employment and educational opportunities is very precarious. We need to be allowed to work and contribute to the economy of this nation and pay our tax as tax payers. We must not be allowed to waste away and become like rotten potatoes. This is because the longer time we are not allowed to work, the more we rot and waste away. Our mental and physical health is greatly disturbed and completely demoralized. We believe we have been dehumanized without opportunity for true integration process into the Irish society. We have been segregated and confined in the Direct Provision System. Our fundamental human rights to live like normal human beings in society have been grossly and unjustly violated. They take from us what they say they are giving to us. They undo to us what they say to the Irish people they do for us. There is none to care. That is why this present Irish government is responsive and determined in every way and by every means to end the daily nightmares in our lives in the reformation of the system.

    The Irish people are very humane and receptive and are known to be a society built upon the foundation of love for one another. Asylum seekers in this country need to be given true love and sanctuary and be allowed opportunity for true integration process into this loving Irish society in a legacy of goodwill, togetherness and love, because one does not fix appointments with fate. We asylum seekers are prisoners of conscience asking and begging for love like a Christmas tree. We should be pardoned and given parole, an opportunity to become tax payers, and contribute to the growth of the economy of this nation. We need opportunity to try and become better people in the life of this great nation and become on the long run employers of labour and laborious because there is dignity in labour. We want to be able to promote the tourism industry through industry, enterprise, music, art and culture. We ask that our lives be saved by being given safety and security of life. It is our hope that the positive impact we make in the life of this great nation will be tooled in gold in the annals of history. Even though we cannot be perfect, we can at least be given a chance to try and do something for the common good of society. In God we trust.

    By; Joe Odiboh
    Chairman: Globe House Residents Union
    Contact: 0899732818

    for and behalf of
    (Globe House Residents Union)

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