SECURITY staff stationed at the center of the Stradey Park Hotel, embroiled in a contentious row over housing asylum seekers, have vacated the premises amidst triumphant chants of “Cheerio!” from protestors. This move is being hailed as a significant step forward in their endeavor to impede the implementation of the controversial plans. Following the dismissal of a legal case aimed at blocking the proposals in the High Court in London a week ago, demonstrators have established a camp outside the hotel in Llanelli.
Large numbers of protestors have been gathering at the site day and night, while a noticeable police presence has been maintained throughout the past week. The events on Sunday, July 9, resulted in charges being brought against four individuals. Furthermore, Carmarthenshire Council has imposed a temporary stop notice on both the owners and occupiers of the hotel, following the creation of an opening in a hedge that allowed access to the premises, constituting a “breach of planning control,” according to the council.
At the forefront of the hotel, protestors persistently obstruct access to the main entrance, which is exclusively reachable through privately owned land. For additional information on this matter, readers may refer to our previous coverage, and to stay informed about the latest developments in Carmarthenshire, they can sign up for our local newsletter.
On Wednesday night, the protestors temporarily moved aside to allow the security personnel, who had been inside the hotel, to depart. As they left, exuberant chants of ‘Cheerio’ resonated through the air. The future course of events remains uncertain, as the council’s temporary stop notice will remain in effect until August 9, and the protestors stationed at the front of the site exhibit no intention of leaving. Simultaneously, the Police and Crime Commissioner accountable for the area’s law enforcement has written to the Home Office, urging a pause and review of the controversial plans due to the unsustainable nature of maintaining officers at the scene.
NO ARRESTS THIS WEEK
Despite the predominantly peaceful nature of the protests, with no arrests made since Sunday, there are mounting concerns within Dyfed-Powys Police regarding “serious and escalating tensions.” Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn emphasized the urgent necessity for the Home Office to reassess the dispersal of asylum seekers to the Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli. He stated that this reassessment would alleviate the strain on local services and address the potential for significant tensions to arise. Additionally, he disclosed that legal action and an “injunction” had been filed concerning a disputed entrance created alongside the hotel grounds. The matter of whether the Home Office’s contracted private contractors possess a legal right of access to the site remains subject to contentious debate, which has heightened community tensions and necessitated a substantial police presence at the location since Friday, July 7.
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn also highlighted the contradiction between the Home Office’s approach and the Welsh Government’s strategy for accommodating asylum seekers. The Welsh Government advocates for a dispersed housing model, a strategy that Mr. Llywelyn supports. In his letter to the Home Office, his second expressing concern, Mr. Llywelyn reiterated, “I would reiterate from my previous letter my support for the Welsh Government’s strategy, which is to house people in a dispersed model. This sustainable approach provides a long-term solution for asylum seekers within the Dyfed-Powys area. It is a model that the people of Wales support, have embraced, and have successfully implemented for the resettlement of Syrian, Afghan, Ukrainian, and general asylum seekers in recent years.”
PROTESTERS ESTABLISH CAMP
In an effort to prevent the Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli from being repurposed as a housing facility for asylum seekers, protesters have established a camp outside the premises. The hotel was scheduled to receive its first group of approximately 250 asylum seekers this week, but resistance from local residents has complicated the situation. Carmarthenshire Council’s recent attempt to obtain an injunction at the High Court to halt the plans proved unsuccessful, intensifying the standoff.
Incidents at the hotel over the past few days have led to charges being pressed against four individuals following police intervention. One such incident involved a vehicle obstructing an entrance. Protesters, arguing that the hotel is an inappropriate location for housing asylum seekers, claim that security guards left the premises on Wednesday in response to the council’s prohibition on using an unofficial access point through a hedge.
Robert Lloyd, spokesperson for the Furnace Action Committee, revealed that protesters had successfully intercepted “lorry loads” of beds intended for the hotel. He also highlighted the anticipated need for microwave ovens, as the hotel’s kitchens will not be utilized, and asylum seekers will require a means to heat their meals three times a day. Lloyd remarked, “All this equipment has not arrived, so they can’t move in the asylum seekers.”
In an attempt to gain access to the hotel’s car park, a portion of a hedge was removed over the weekend. However, the council deemed this action “detrimental to pedestrian and highway safety” and subsequently ordered the hotel owners to cease using it. The duration of the order and whether the hotel owners will contest it remain uncertain.
Both the Home Office and Clear Springs, the hotel owners, have refrained from addressing the ongoing controversy surrounding Stradey Park. The Home Office, while acknowledging that the issue of asylum has become financially burdensome for taxpayers and necessitates exploring alternative options, declined to comment on individual cases. The Welsh Refugee Council has also voiced concerns regarding the prolonged use of hotels as accommodations for asylum seekers, urging the UK government to expedite the asylum claim processing procedures.
As the impasse continues, protesters remain resolute in their opposition to the hotel’s conversion into an asylum seeker facility. Their persistence underscores the challenges faced by authorities seeking to address the issue of housing vulnerable individuals amidst a backdrop of public dissent and safety concerns.
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has written a second letter to Home Secretary Suella Braveman MP, calling for a ‘pause and review’ of plans by the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers at Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli.
PCC Llywelyn’s calls come following serious and escalating tensions in the area that are causing safety concerns for both local residents and contractors on site and contractors on site. There are also legal disputes taking place over land ownership around the boundaries of the hotel grounds, which is adding to the complexity of the situation and increasing pressures on Police officers.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said; “There is an urgent need for the Home Office to pause and review the dispersal of asylum seekers to the Stradey Park Hotel, Llanelli, both to ease the pressures on local services and to address the potentially serious and escalating tensions.
“I have also been made aware that legal action and an ‘injunction’ have both been submitted in relation to a disputed entrance that has been created to the side of the Hotel grounds. There is obvious disagreement as to whether private contractors engaged by the Home Office have a legal entitlement to access the site; this has increased community tensions and resulted in a very substantial Police presence at the location since Friday 7th July 2023.
“The area has been permanently policed since Sunday 9th July and a number of people have been arrested. Dyfed-Powys Police have been required to draw upon resources from across the Force area to manage this extremely difficult situation. This is not sustainable, and they are continually assessing staffing capabilities and officer welfare, which will likely result in an imminent withdrawal of officers from the location.
“It is becoming an increasingly difficult situation to navigate and manage from a Policing perspective”.
In his letter to the Home Office, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn also points out that the Home Office is going against Welsh Government’s strategy to accommodate asylum seekers, which is to house people in a dispersed model.
In his letter to the Home Office, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn notes; “I would reiterate from my previous letter my support for the Welsh Government’s strategy, which is to house people in a dispersed model. This is sustainable in offering a longer-term solution for asylum seekers within the Dyfed-Powys area. It is a model that the people of Wales support, have embraced and have successfully delivered to re-settle Syrian, Afghan, Ukrainian and general asylum seekers in recent years.
“The decisions made by the Home Office are in direct conflict with this. The model of accommodating large numbers of asylum seekers in one concentrated site is not the appropriate way to accommodate people who are seeking asylum.
“It is disappointing to see once again a lack of local engagement or any form of consultation by the Home Office with local service providers to understand the impact of locating in excess of 200 asylum seekers at the site, which has resulted in unnecessary pressure being placed on local resources and service providers.”
“I would further reiterate the importance of proactive communication from the Home Office in relation to this matter, both with local service providers and with the public“.