Protest over plan to turn ex-military base in Wales into camp for 250 asylum seekers

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Welsh villagers have protested against Home Office plans to turn another ex-military base into a camp for 250 asylum seekers – more than 300 miles from the English Channel.

The Ministry of Defence has offered former army base Penally Training Camp, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, as a place to house refugees who have crossed from France, while their asylum claims are processed.

From next week, around 400 refugees, including families, will be kept at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, after the site was also offered to the Home Office by the MoD.

Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins says he ‘cannot support’ the decision and called on the Home Office to find ‘more suitable’ accommodation.

There have been similar complaints in Penally, where former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said a former army training camp was a ‘perverse’ place to house people who had fled conflict.

Penally Training Camp in Wales could be used to house 250 refugees, who have crossed the English Channel, while their asylum claims are processed

Penally Training Camp in Wales could be used to house 250 refugees, who have crossed the English Channel, while their asylum claims are processed

Around 400 people including families, believed to have crossed the Channel in small boats, are to be housed in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, from next week

Around 400 people including families, believed to have crossed the Channel in small boats, are to be housed in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, from next week

Around 6,000 migrants have arrived on the English coast after making the dangerous voyage across the English Channel this year.

Politicians, councils and residents have all raised concerns over a lack of consultation from the Home Office at both sites.

Around 100 locals blocked a key road on Tuesday in protest over the plan, amid fears it could put pressure on local infrastructure.  

Pembrokeshire County Councillor, Jonathan Preston, said: ‘We understand there’s a humanitarian requirement to look after these people.

‘My only question – is the Penally camp a bit too close to a small village which depends on tourism and it may have a negative impact on the tourism industry in Pembrokeshire?’

The Plaid Cymru councillor added: ‘I’m concerned about how this news came to a small place like Penally. We’re quite a close-knit community. 

‘With a community like Penally, if the community had been involved in the consultation, they would be more likely to embrace the situation.’

Locals in Penally have raised concerns that a migrant camp could put people off visiting their holiday village 

Enraged locals in the Welsh village of Penally blocked a road near the disused training camp, which has been offered up as a temporary home for asylum seekers

Enraged locals in the Welsh village of Penally blocked a road near the disused training camp, which has been offered up as a temporary home for asylum seekers

In a joint letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Mr Collins along with the leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council and the chairman of Sandgate Parish Council demanded that the decision be reversed.

They said: ‘We have great concerns about the impact this large open camp will have on the welfare of the local residential community and also those people in the asylum system who will be placed at the barracks itself.’

In a statement, Folkestone and Hythe District Council cited a ‘lack of consultation on this matter and the exceptionally poor communication with us’.

They added: ‘We are quite sure that members of the community will have many questions, and we are seeking clarification as a matter of urgency.’

Around 100 villagers attended a protest this week on Tuesday - the same day it was announced a deserted barracks in Folkestone would also be used

Around 100 villagers attended a protest this week on Tuesday – the same day it was announced a deserted barracks in Folkestone would also be used

In Penally, around 100 villagers held a sit-down demonstration, blocking a main road towards nearby Tenby in protest against the plans on Tuesday night.

One woman said: ‘I’ve got no problem with asylum seekers themselves. I feel a great deal of sympathy for them but we haven’t got the infrastructure here. 

‘I don’t know how we’re going to cope basically.’

‘I just don’t see where they’re going to get all the help they really need from without the locals going short, which they’ve already done in a lot of respects anyway.’

Wearing a face-mask, puffer jacket and Adidas tracksuit, a migrant father was yesterday photographed walking with his wife and two children along the coastal path at Kingsdown Beach in Deal

Wearing a face-mask, puffer jacket and Adidas tracksuit, a migrant father was yesterday photographed walking with his wife and two children along the coastal path at Kingsdown Beach in Deal

Asylum seekers who have fled their homes could be kept in old army camps in Penally, above, and Folkestone

Asylum seekers who have fled their homes could be kept in old army camps in Penally, above, and Folkestone

According to the 2011 census, Penally has a population of around 850 people.

Another man said: ‘The population would be inflated by a third with no increase in spending on the infrastructure – that would be my major concern.’

Former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood added: ‘In meeting its moral duty to protect these individuals, the UK government should identify sites which are both safe and suitable to house them. At present, they seem to be failing on both fronts.’

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘During these unprecedented times, the government is working with a range of partners and across departments to secure further accommodation and the MoD has offered use of some of its sites.

‘When using contingency accommodation we work closely with organisations, including local authorities and law enforcement, throughout the process to ensure value for money and that vulnerable asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, have suitable accommodation while their claims are processed.’

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