NEW plans for asylum seekers have been proposed by the UK Government this week, which has prompted both support and criticism.

The topic of asylum seekers in Wales has been front and center in the last few months following the controversial housing of over 250 men at Penally camp in Pembrokeshire.

A scathing report on the camp labelled it “rundown and unsuitable” after months of protesting by groups both condemning and welcoming the decision to house them in the former army barracks.

“We couldn’t sleep because we were six in the room, without privacy, without comfort, with a lot of noise,” one asylum seeker said.

Local MP Simon Hart announced the closure earlier this month in a letter to constituents.

In the letter, Hart said: “I am very pleased to confirm that the Home Office has agreed to return Penally Camp to the Ministry of Defence by March 21.

“This decision has been taken following many weeks of discussions between myself, the Wales Office, and the home Office ministerial team. During those meetings and discussions (which have been taking place almost daily over the last few months) we have tried to ensure that the concerns of everybody involved have been properly and legally accounted for.

“The impact of flight and accommodation regulations due to Covid-19 have made this much more complicated than would normally be the case.”

Another military camp used as accommodation for asylum seekers in Kent was described as a “decrepit” block unfit for habitation in the same inspectors’ report.

New plans announced this week looked to curb who could arrive and stay in the UK.

Priti Patel unveiled her plans this week

Outlining the new plans, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The government has taken back control of legal immigration by ending free movement and introducing a points-based immigration system.

“We are now addressing the challenge of illegal immigration – head on.

“People are dying – at sea, in lorries and in shipping containers – having put their lives in the hands of criminal gangs that facilitate illegal journeys to the UK.

“To stop the deaths, we must stop the trade in people that cause them.

“Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not the ability to pay people smugglers.

“If you enter illegally from a safe country like France where you should and could have claimed asylum, you are not seeking refuge from persecution – as is the intended purpose of the asylum system.

“Instead, you are choosing the UK as your preferred destination.

“And you are doing so at the expense of those with nowhere else to go.

“The capacity of our asylum system is not unlimited. Which is why our New Plan for Immigration is driven by three fair but firm objectives:

“First. To increase the fairness of our system so we can protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.

“Second. To deter illegal entry into the UK – breaking the business model of people smugglers – and protecting the lives of those they endanger.

“Third. To remove more easily from the UK, those with no right to be here.

“Our new plan sets out a ‘one-stop’ process to require all claims to be made upfront.

“No more endless meritless claims to frustrate removal. No more stalling justice.

“Our new system will be faster and fairer and will help us better support the most vulnerable.”

One of the first vocal critics of the plans was Refugee Action, who took to Twitter and responded: “We know that the asylum system is failing people seeking safety. But the changes proposed by @pritipatel are a wrecking ball to the right to claim asylum and will deepen the injustices we already see. It’s the biggest attack on the right to claim asylum we’ve ever seen in the UK.

“People fleeing for their lives have little choice in how they seek safety. There is no ‘wrong type’ of refugee. But these reforms punish refugees for how they enter the country, creating one rule for some, and a different rule for others.

“People seeking asylum are already demonised while desperately trying to navigate a complex system.

Creating a divide based on how people try to reach safety will further fuel the harassment, violent attacks and hate crimes people already experience.

“People should be treated with compassion. If the Home Office truly wants a system that is humane, they should be creating a system that is focused on protecting the vulnerable.

“The current asylum system leaves people facing destitution and banned from any means of supporting themselves. Many are left hungry and homeless because they are not given the support they need to live with dignity. These proposals will make a lack of support the default.

“The current system already leaves people at huge risk after receiving an answer on their claim. These changes will mean that people will never be able to feel truly safe.

“A fair system means people are given the support they need to restart their lives, whatever the outcome of their asylum claim – not left in endless limbo, waiting for the moment they may again have to face the danger they fled.”

Getting ahead of critics in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary said: “And to those who say we lack compassion, I simply say, while people are dying we must act to deter these journeys.

“And if you don’t like our plan, where is yours?

“This government promised to take a common-sense approach to controlling immigration – legal and illegal – and we will deliver on that promise.

“The UK is playing its part to tackle the inhumanity of illegal migration, and today I will press for global action at the G6.”

With the plans in the early stages, it is not yet clear how this will impact Wales – and nobody in the Welsh Government has openly voiced their opinions – but in time more details will emerge, as many will want to avoid another Penally situation.