PENALLY ASYLUM SEEKER ACCOMODATION CENTRE will close by March 21, the Secretary of State for Wales has confirmed.
In a letter to Penally residents, Simon Hart MP said that he was very pleased to confirm the return of Penally Camp to the Ministry of Defence “shortly”.
The letter, seen by The Herald states: “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.
“I am deeply conscious that the manner in which the use of Penally came about caused much frustration and anger. The Home Office recognises this contributed to heightened tensions but stress they had little option at the time. As a Cabinet colleague of the Home Secretary I felt the best course of action was to engage and negotiate. Also, I wanted to provide local residents with regular updates of the facts, knowing all along that for those seeking “progress” this may seem a far too neutral approach. A more visible approach not only may have been more inflammatory, but also (in my view) would have made my private negotiations much more difficult to conclude quickly.
“I am also incredibly grateful to the Police, Health Board and County Council for their efforts in maintaining a measured approach to a situation thrust upon them at short notice. That is never easy.
“I am especially grateful to the residents of Penally and the local area for doing likewise. The whole question of accommodating asylum seekers is fraught with controversy, passionate beliefs and the requirements of national and international law. Difficult situations have also been leapt upon by some with more destructive motives adding to the pressure on so many people locally.
“Despite all of this I now hope that as we emerge from the horrors of Covid thanks to the vaccine programme we can look forward to a brighter spring and summer ahead.”
Riaz Hassan, Labour’s candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said: “I am pleased to know that the Home Secretary has finally realised her mistake that the Penally camp was not a ‘fit for purpose’ accommodation.
“During the recent inspection, the Inspectors called it ‘filthy’ and ‘impoverished’.
“Last October, the Welsh Government asked the Home Secretary to close the camp, as the condition of the camp and the treatment of the most vulnerable people were inhuman and directly against their basic human rights.
“My thanks go to the local people for looking after them, the Welsh Government, the local Police team, Health Board and the council for making sure that key services are provided to the most vulnerable people placed in Penally with extremely short notice, especially when they arrived at the camp first.
“I hope that both the Welsh and Home Secretary will have a big lesson learnt from this.
“I am very upset that a very small number of people politicise this to their advantage and towards furthering their agenda. They tried to create divisions in our community but they failed once again.
“I know that the Welsh people are welcoming, friendly, caring and these are some of the qualities that attract people from all parts of the globe to visit Wales and especially the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire area.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has welcomed the news of the Home Office’s decision to close the asylum accommodation centre in Penally.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn last week called for the immediate closure of the asylum accommodation following a damning inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI).
As well as a lack of Covid protection, fire safety and living conditions concerns, the inspectors found that managers lacked the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation and the Home Office did not exercise adequate oversight. The report also reveals that many residents at the centre said they had mental health problems.
One week on from the damning inspection report, the Home Office have announced that the Centre at Penally is to be closed down, and that all asylum seekers will be removed from the site by 21 March 2021.
Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I’m extremely pleased to hear today’s announcement, and that finally we will see the closure of the asylum centre in Penally.
“I have been continuous in my condemnation of the Home Office’s decision to use the camp to house asylum seekers since September last year, and my concerns are vindicated following the findings of an independent inspection that were published in a damning report last week.
“It will be a welcomed relief not only to local residents in Penally and the surrounding area, but also to the asylum seekers within the centre.
“I am grateful to all local agencies who have worked tirelessly to make the best of this difficult situation. I hope the Home Office has learnt a further lesson about how important it is to consult with local communities and key stakeholders”
“I have seen first-hand the difficult circumstances encountered by individuals residing at the centre. In January, I met with David Bolt, the Chief Inspector of Asylum and Immigration, who reassured me at the time that the independent inspection of the Centre would take place early this year.
“The report findings that were published last week highlighted the concerns and fears that myself and other local stakeholders have raised with the Home Office on several occasions.
“The lack of strategic planning around the use of camp since September 2020, as well as the lack of community engagement has been extremely frustrating. This has led to unnecessary pressure being put on local resources at a time when we are trying to protect our communities from a global pandemic.
“I am glad to see that common sense has prevailed, and that plans are being put in place to relocate all asylum seekers by as early as next week, and that the camp will close once and for all.”
The Conservative candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Sam Kurtz, said: “This is a welcome decision which I am pleased has been achieved through collaboration between the Home Office and Welsh Government.
“I am extremely grateful to the community and voluntary groups, the Council, Police and Health Board for their efforts and support during this time.”
Commenting Angela Burns MS said: “This news will be very welcomed by the local community and some of the local services that are currently under additional pressures due to the Covid pandemic.
“I am glad that the UK Government have honoured their promise that this site would only be used on a temporary short term basis and I am also pleased to hear that the Welsh Government are going to increase their support for additional dispersal facilities within Wales and make good on their Nation of Sanctuary promise.
“The housing of Asylum seekers in Penally has truly shown both the best and worst of human nature. I pay tribute to the local community in the patience that they have displayed whilst those accommodated at the camp were processed, but I express my disgust at the way that certain individuals, both locally and nationally, have used the situation to stoke discord and hatred.”
UKIP Pembrokeshire Councillor Paul Dowson told Herald.Wales: “I am delighted that the Home Office has made this decision.
“This is a victory for those who campaigned so tirelessly against a migrant camp being set up without any consultation in a village ill- equipped to deal with such a facility.
“This also sends a clear message to the Welsh government that we are not ‘a nation of sanctuary’, as they have declared, and ordinary hard-working people within the county of Pembrokeshire will not be dictated to by the out of touch woke establishment within the Senedd.
“If it wasn’t for the protests and strong local opposition this camp would still be here.”
Plaid Cymru Regional MS Helen Mary Jones said: “The announcement that asylum seekers will no longer be kept in the former Ministry of Defence camp at Penally near Tenby is welcome news.
“As Plaid Cymru’s Dafydd Llywelyn, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys said: “The Home Office’s use of the camp, especially during a global pandemic, has put immense strain on local people, services, and the residents themselves, its closure will be a welcome relief to all.
“It’s thanks to the hard work of Dafydd Llywelyn and local councillor Jon Preston that the Home Office finally bowed to pressure and agreed to close the camp.