“We recognise that this is an emotive issue” - Mayor of Tenby calls for clarity over Penally Camp plans

By Paul Evans   |   Content editor   |
Thursday 17th September 2020 10:13 am
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Protestors outside Penally Training Camp on Tuesday evening (Pic. Gareth Davies Photography)

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The Mayor of Tenby, has called for calm over the situation at neighbouring costal village in Penally - where speculation is mounting that the army camp which sits just outside of Tenby is being prepared for up to 250 asylum seekers that could arrive as early as next week.

Over 200 people gathered outside the facility on Tuesday evening for a protest, with a large group of the protestors then moving to sit down and stand on the roadway to make their feelings known.

Speaking in his capacity as Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP, Welsh secretary of state Simon Hart said this week that he had spoken to the Home Secretary to seek further clarification regarding the plans.

“I appreciate that residents are concerned about a number of issues so I have included as many of these as possible in our submission,” remarked Mr. Hart.

“For example, I have asked how long the site will be used, what the security arrangements will be and whether the Home Office will be funding any additional costs that Pembrokeshire County Council, Hywel Dda Health Board and Dyfed Powys Police might incur.

“I also want to know how many people could be housed at one time, what the gender balance and likely age profile could be as well as how local residents’ welfare will be ensured.

“I have enquired about the arrangements for occupants entering or leaving the site and further detailed queries regarding healthcare and COVID testing of staff and occupants.

“I have also asked for an explanation of the day-to-day workings of the site in relation to processing asylum claims.

“As soon as I receive a reply I shall post it on my website and Facebook page. In the meantime I am keen to avoid too much speculation in case this causes increased tension and concern,” he added.

The Mayor of Tenby, Clr. Mrs. Sam Skyrme Blackhall has also commented on the matter, stating: “We recognise that this is an emotive issue. We understand peoples concerns and agree that there are questions to be answered.

“Although Penally Camp is not within Tenby Town Council jurisdiction, we know that issues relating to our neighbours impact on Tenby.

“We will liaise with Penally Community Council and their local County Councillor and will support them in their requests for clarification.

“Tenby Town Council is meeting to discuss this matter and I have no doubt that we will be asking questions and expecting that the community receives clarity.

“Regardless of your opinion on the matter, we understand people’s genuine concerns.

“We think people need to stay calm despite outside influences trying to inflame the situation.

“We want clarity. This is a decision made in London. Answers are needed and we would like the opportunity to ask questions.

“We want our communities to be communicated with. Real information, direct from those that are making the decisions,” she added.

Penally county councillor Jon Preston has stated that his request to attend talks between immigration officials, Pembrokeshire county council, Welsh government representatives and the chief of Police on Monday to discuss the matter were turned down.

“I have made it clear to the Home Office that whilst I fully appreciate the need to accommodate those fleeting from persecution, my role is to represent the people of Penally who would be directly affected by such a decision,”?he said.

“I have pointed out the fragility of our tourism industry during Covid-19 and the close proximity of the camp to the residential areas in Penally.

“The situation at Penally camp has evoked strong emotions, mainly due to the ‘not knowing’.

“People are free to protest and it is good that we make our voices heard. As expected there have been demonstrations in support and in opposition to this proposal.

“Just for the record, I will not be attending any protests as there are some who will use the attention this situation has generated to promote their own political agenda.

“My job is to do everything I can to find out the facts and represent the people of Penally.

“I would ask one thing of everyone who has an opinion on this matter, pick up a pen or sit down at a keyboard - write to your MP, write to your local paper, write to your national paper, write to your representative in the House of Lords.

“Let there be no doubt, we are dealing with an emotive situation being driven by the highest level of government and not one elected politician in Wales was asked to represent you. That should concern us all!” added Clr. Preston, who has alo submitted a notice of motion to October’s full council meeting.

It states: ‘That Pembrokeshire county council resolves to carry out a full fact finding investigation in to the circumstances leading up to the Home Office carrying out a ‘scoping exercise’ at Penally training camp to establish its viability as a holding unit for those seeking asylum in the UK.

‘Whether the training camp is used for such a purpose or not there remains a complete absence of democratic representation or consultation with any elected bodies in Wales.

‘I respectfully request Pembrokeshire county council send a clear and robust message to Welsh government and Westminster that we are elected by the people of this county to represent their communities.

‘Had we, as the local authourity been given an opportunity to have been involved in managing our humas rights obligations then we would have been duty bound to find a suitable solution to provide care and protection to those fleeing persecution whilst remaining mindful of possible or perceived community impact.

‘The autocratic manner in which this process has been managed should make us all question the integrity of democracy within the current political system.’

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