Welsh Government formally calls on UK Government stop using Penally camp for asylum seekers

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Use of a Welsh army training camp for asylum seekers is the “direct opposite” to basic equality and human rights needs and should be ended as soon as possible, a Welsh minister has said.

Jane Hutt MS, deputy minister and chief whip, has condemned the decision to use the Ministry of Defence facility in Penally on the outskirts of Tenby to house around 230 asylum seekers.

She says the controversial camp “does not meet the basic human needs of people seeking a new life in the UK” and Welsh efforts to seek a delay in the camp’s opening were denied by the Home Office.

On Friday, Ms Hutt called on the Pembrokeshire facility to be closed sooner rather than later. She said: “We can be proud of the way our nation has responded to successive refugee crises, providing a warm welcome and opportunities to integrate with our communities. However, the decision by the Home Office to use the Penally military camp as a centre to house asylum seekers is the direct opposite of the Nation of Sanctuary approach.

“We believe the use of the camp should end as quickly as possible.

“The Welsh Government has repeatedly expressed significant concerns about the suitability of the camp at Penally being used to accommodate asylum seekers.

“The camp does not meet the basic human needs of people seeking a new life in the UK. It places people in accommodation, which is neither designed nor appropriate for long-term use – mainly poorly insulated huts – and risks re-traumatising many vulnerable people who may have been fleeing abuse and torture.

“We sought a delay to the opening of the camp to ensure plans were put in place with local services to enable them to prepare for the arrival of asylum seekers, particularly to make sure Covid-19 public health measures were in place. The Home Office denied this request and, as a result, proper measures have not been put in place.”



Jane Hutt has described the Penally camp as ‘neither designed nor appropriate for long-term use’

She added that the Welsh Government had made “repeated reasoned approaches” to the Home Office to make changes to protect the health and well being of the asylum seekers who have been relocated to Penally over the last few weeks.

Calling the Penally camp “incompatible” with the Welsh Government’s approach to inclusive and cohesive communities, Ms Hutt said there were still unanswered questions about why the Penally site was selected in the first place.

“We have yet to receive a clear rationale for the reason why the Home Office chose this site to relocate asylum seekers, nor have we been provided with a clear strategy about how the Home Office will address the lack of dispersal accommodation throughout Wales and the United Kingdom,” she set out, in a written statement.

“To date, there has been no financial help from the Home Office for these public bodies to deliver services in these exceptional circumstances during a period in which they have been under unprecedented pressure.”



There have been protests outside the gates every weekend since the plans were revealed in mid-September

A number of charities have rallied to support the asylum seekers in Penally.

Ms Hutt added: “Migrant Help is coordinating offers of support and has been overwhelmed with gifts and welcome messages. English language tuition providers, including the Oasis centre, are working to provide tuition, Victim Support is engaging with individuals relating to hate crime and other organisations are seeking to understand and plug gaps in services, where they are able.

“Faith communities have worked on an inter-faith basis to ensure adequate facilities are put in place for religious observance.

“I hope we can continue to build on these relationships going forward.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “Our asylum system is fundamentally broken and we are determined to introduce a new system that is firm and fair.

“It will be compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes and it will also be firm, to stop the abuse of the system by those who come here illegally and often make unfounded or meritless claims to remain.”



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