Bypassing Welsh Secretary on asylum seeker camp shows ‘deep-rooted contempt for Wales’

Priti Patel (left) by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0). Simon Hart (right) by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0). Health

The Home Office’s decision to not tell the Secretary of State for Wales about plans to build an asylum seekers’ camp in his constituency has been condemned as showing a “deep-rooted contempt for Wales”.

Simon Hart, the Conservative MP for the Carmarthen East and South Pembrokeshire, said he found out about plans for the camp from Pembrokeshire council.

On BBC Radio Wales on Saunday he criticised the Home Secretary, Priti Patel over her handling of the Penally asylum seekers’ camp.

He also said that the Home Office admitted its plans to house up to 230 people at the camp “wasn’t handled very well”.

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader and Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP, said that the issue showed Priti Patel MP’s “deep-rooted contempt for Wales” in disregarding the Welsh Secretary.

“We already knew that the current UK Government had contempt for devolution,” she said.

“By also bypassing the Secretary of State for Wales, who is also incidentally the local MP, the Home Secretary has revealed her deep-rooted contempt for Wales as a whole.

“The experience of areas like Ceredigion is evidence that those seeking and granted asylum are better integrated into the community when they are provided with the necessary support and social networks.

“It is vital that local elected representatives – from county councillors to the Secretary of State – are fully included in that process. Not doing so when dealing with a sensitive issue of this kind is not only disrespectful but also incredibly reckless.”

 

‘Not the point’

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Simon Hart said he found out about the camp due to a social media post by Pembrokeshire council.

“We shouldn’t be discovering these things by accident and by the fact that somebody posted something on Facebook,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

He said that he had taken the matter up with Home Secretary Priti Patel on three or four occasions.

“The policy I can understand, and I understand the difficulty with Covid and finding Covid-compliant accommodation,” he said.

“I understand the difficulties at the moment over transport and all the things which have led to this.

“But the fact is that we all discovered completely by accident because of some comments on Facebook. There was no official contact.

“The practical application of this particular saga wasn’t handled particularly well and the Home Office have actually admitted that.

“Whether it would’ve made any difference to the final decision is debatable but it’s not really the point.”

‘Unacceptable’

Protests and counter-protests took place last month at the site in Penally, Pembrokeshire.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has criticised the Home Office’s decision to place asylum seekers at the camp, saying it was “unsuitable” for vulnerable people who have “fled terror and suffering”.

And there had been a “lack of planning, communication, consultation and information”, according to Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn.

He described the move as “totally unacceptable” and said it showed a “lack of respect” to residents in Penally and the surrounding area.

“It has been left to our local agencies including the police to pick up the pieces of this impractical Home Office decision and I am therefore asking for a direct apology,” he added.

The asylum seekers themselves have spoken out about the camp, saying that they were shocked by the conditions, and that after fleeing a war zone being placed in an army camp was distressing.

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