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Protesters rally against plans to convert hotel into asylum seeker accommodation

APPROXIMATELY 100 protesters took to the streets on Sunday to express their opposition to the proposed conversion of a local hotel into accommodation for asylum seekers. The Stradey Park Hotel in Furnace, near Llanelli, is set to house up to 241 asylum seekers starting from 10th July. Concerned residents gathered to voice their grievances and show support for the hotel staff, whose jobs are now at risk due to the impending changes.

The march, organised by the Furnace Action Committee, featured speeches from group member Steve Williams and Darren Price, the leader of Carmarthenshire council. Addressing the crowd, Mr Price emphasised his recognition of the fundamental right to seek asylum for those fleeing war and persecution. However, he voiced concerns over the handling of the process by the UK government, stating that they have lost control of the application process. Mr Price urged the hotel owners, Sterling Woodrow, to intervene and put an end to the conversion plans.

During the protest, hotel staff members, some of whom were in tears, were invited to come out of the hotel. The supportive crowd cheered for them, acknowledging the difficult position they now find themselves in.

The decision to convert the hotel has raised concerns among local residents, particularly regarding the strain on community facilities and the availability of necessary support services. Helen Thomas, a nearby resident, expressed worry about the impact on local healthcare resources, highlighting the lengthy waiting times for specialist appointments. Residents like Kay Klingbeil emphasised the importance of open communication and expressed a desire for more information regarding the plans and their potential impact.

The Home Office responded to the concerns, acknowledging the unacceptability of using hotels for asylum accommodation. They stressed their commitment to engaging with local authorities and communities, aiming to minimise the impact of such sites and ensuring the safety of both residents and locals. On-site security and financial support are among the measures being considered.

Sterling Woodrow, the owners of Stradey Park Hotel, have been approached for comment on the situation.

In addition to the protest, it was revealed that a total of 95 staff members at the hotel have been informed that they will lose their jobs. The 50 full-time and 45 part-time employees were informed during a meeting on Tuesday, as the hotel prepares for the arrival of asylum seekers on 10th July. The sudden announcement left many staff members shocked, although some expressed relief at finally receiving clarity about their future employment.

Carmarthenshire council previously expressed its strong opposition to the conversion plans, echoing the concerns raised by the protesters. Llanelli MP, Dame Nia Griffith, criticised the treatment of the hotel staff, calling it disgraceful and degrading. She offered her full support to the affected employees and urged the hotel owners and the UK government to take responsibility for their actions.

As the situation unfolds, the Home Office continues to engage with local authorities, housing contractors, and the community to address concerns and ensure a smoother transition for all parties involved.

Both Carmarthenshire council and Clearsprings, the Home Office’s housing contractor, have been approached for comment regarding the matter. Sterling Woodrow, the hotel’s owners, are also expected to provide a statement on the recent developments.

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