Penally’s county councillor has slammed the ‘disgraceful scenes’ that took place outside the repurposed army training camp last night, as protestors clashed with police at the gates, as they made their stance against asylum seekers being housed at the facility.
Protestors against the move, the majority who seemed to be from other areas away from Penally, at one stage formed a human chain in front of the gates of the site, as police tried to reverse a van into the entrance, leading to a clash between some of the protestors and officers.
Police reinforcements and dogs were brought in by the end of the night and into the early hours to patrol the situation.
MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, and Welsh secretary of state Simon Hart issued a further update last night (Monday) after receiving further information from the Home Office, stating that the occupation capacity of the site has been downscaled slightly from 250 to 234 males, to comply with Covid-19 regulations.
“All occupants of the site have gone through the asylum screening process, which includes being photographed, having fingerprints taken, and stating their reason for claiming asylum,” said Mr. Hart.
“The Home Office informs us that the majority of occupants will be from Iran and Iraq.
“As part of the screening process, all those coming to Penally from a country not on the travel corridor list will have gone through a 14 day quarantine period in a hotel.
“They will be tested for Covid-19 in line with Government guidelines.
“As previously stated, the occupants are not under detention, so they can legally leave the site.
“However, all their meals and wellbeing services will be provided on the site and the Home Office anticipate they will have limited need to leave the site.
“If they do, there will be a checking in and out system to monitor where the residents are at all times. Anybody failing to return to the site will trigger an absconding process.
“Residents will not be receiving any state funding, so will not be in a position to make purchases outside the site,” continued Mr. Hart.
Following last night’s ugly scenes between protestors and police, in correspondence sent to Mr. Hart, Penally’s county councillor Clr. Preston has stated that riots occurring on the doorsteps of an elderly community is ‘totally unacceptable’.
“There were some disgraceful scenes outside of Penally camp late last night and into the early hours. I can only imagine how the residents nearby must be feeling,” said Clr. Preston.
“As our representative at Westminster you are the only one in any position to request that this location is re-considered. I was assured by the Home Office last week that ‘community impact would be assessed’, and that it would be minimal, evidently it is not.
“We have proven in the past that as a community we can rise to most challenges, however riots on the doorsteps of an elderly community is totally unacceptable,” he continued.
Clr. Preston also shared comments included in many emails he has received this morning, which he states captures the feelings of the small rural community.
“The situation in early hours, outside the asylum camp in Penally was disgusting for the newly arrived asylum seekers and all the locals in close proximity to the camp,” stated one resident of the village.
“Barking police dogs with the riot police, bypass closed by four police cars with flashing lights, a loud crowd of shouting protesters and an equally loud large number of shouting riot police trying to exert control.
“The Home Office have breached their own guidelines placing these asylum seekers here in every respect and some of the threats of planned violence and criminal damage that I have heard being talked about by some outsiders in the protests is a matter of real concern.
“Can you please do all you can to get this awful decision by the UK Government/Home Office reversed as a matter of urgency.
“The situation is already having a bad effect on the physical and mental health of some Penally residents, myself included. I have not had one proper night’s sleep since this decision became known about to the local community last Monday. I have had no sleep at all last night because of the events described,” they added.
Responding to Clr. Preston’s correspondence, Mr. Hart has stated: “On the various very valid concerns, all of these (and many others) have been raised by me with the HO and MoD over the last few days and will continue to be.
“As you know whilst the HO powers in this policy area are stringent, that does not preclude us from reflecting the views of the community and I will be continuing to do that strenuously.”
Members of the ‘Penally and Surrounding Areas Community Togetherness Group’ have also slammed last night’s scenes, and have distanced themselves from such actions.
“No wonder there are so many reports of the people in Penally being so scared tonight - do people not realise that if that protest doesn’t work (which it won’t) then the first thing these people will see is this absolute shambles, and it doesn’t exactly instil any respect from them does it” said Mark Davies who runs the group.
“If you live in Penally and you have an elderly or vulnerable neighbour then could you please pop your head in and check that they are ok, I can only imagine how frightened they must be hearing all that going on after all that’s been said this week,” he added.