Welsh Secretary criticises Home Secretary over asylum seeker camp plan: ‘I found out on Facebook’

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

The Secretary of State for Wales has criticised the Home Secretary over her handling of the Penally asylum seekers’ camp, saying that he was not told and found out via Facebook.

Simon Hart, the Conservative MP for the Carmarthen East and South Pembrokeshire, said he found out in 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.

“We shouldn’t be discovering these things by accident and by the fact that somebody posted something on Facebook.”

 

‘Unacceptable’

Protests and counter-protests took place last month at the site in Penally, Pembrokeshire, that could house up to 230 asylum seekers.

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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