2 October 2020
I have had a number of individual emails with varying queries and I shall do my best to answer as many as I can in this wide ranging reply. You can find my previous update here.
I am still awaiting answers on a number of additional important points and as soon as I have these, they too will be posted on my website.
Before I deal with the specific questions it might be helpful to summarise the overall position.
It is quite clear that whatever views people hold on this difficult subject no one, including the asylum seekers, believes the current situation to be satisfactory.
The decision by the Home Office not to provide interested parties with clearer information at the start has added to an already difficult situation – a fact that they readily acknowledge.
As we also know the HO does hold extensive powers when it comes to asylum seekers but it cannot override Covid regulations or our legal obligations as far as human rights are concerned.
As a country we have established an international reputation, not as a “soft touch” as some would claim, but for following international norms in a humane and compassionate way. i know that our county, and especially the service personnel from whom this camp has been temporarily loaned, take this responsibility very seriously.
The HO remain adamant, at least for now, that even with a longer period of local consultation the decision to use Penally would have remained. However it accepts that the manner in which this was dealt with has made some of the uglier scenes more inevitable.
Moving to the specifics, I hope can clarify a few points with information that the HO has given me this week:
Money and numbers
The occupants are NOT in receipt of asylum support (which is £37 per week) as all their needs (food/accommodation etc) are being met on site.
I understand that as of today there are approximately 82 occupants at the site, but that this could increase to a maximum of 234.
What actions have been taken to ensure fire safety on the site?
I am awaiting a reply from the Home Office.
What about the extra cost to the council, health board and police?
I have asked repeatedly about the reimbursement of costs to Dyfed-Powys Police (DPP) and Hywel Dda Health Board (HDHB) and will publish a reply once received.
A meeting was due to take place between the HO and DPP yesterday (Thursday) about extra police funding. Negotiations are continuing between HDHB and the HO as to who is providing and funding healthcare.
The HO has committed to paying full business rates for the site during its time there. I have asked Pembrokeshire County Council if they have made a bid for funding and to set out what costs they might incur over and above anything that might be covered by business rates on the site.
Are there any female asylum seekers in the camp?
The HO has confirmed that there are no female asylum seekers but there are female support workers and staff.
Is there a curfew?
Occupants have to sign in and out of the camp and are asked to return to site by 10pm. If they are not back by then, they are contacted via mobile phone for what the HO describe as “a safeguarding check, and reminded of the expectation that they spend the night on site.”
Are any religious requirements of the occupants being met?
The HO states that ‘There is a multi faith room on the site and faith-based dietary requirements will all be accommodated. In addition, Rev Aled Edwards from Cytun has kindly offered to ensure any additional (pastoral/spiritual) faith requirements can supported.’
If anybody would like to direct your comments to the Home Office directly then you can do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to offer help then please contact PATCH on 01646 699275.
As soon as I have any additional information I will pass this on.
Rt Hon Simon Hart MP
Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire / Gorllewin Caerfyrddin a De Sir Benfro