A MEETING is due to be taking place between the Home Office and Pembrokeshire County Council today (Monday) following speculation that up to 500 asylum seekers are to be housed in Penally Army Camp.

Discussions have been rife on social media over the weekend that the camp is to be vacated and transferred to the Home Office for use as a migrant holding centre.

Similar rumours arose five years ago relating to Ministry of Defence camps at Penally, Manorbier and Castlemartin.

At the time, the UK government said that the MoD had advised on the possibility of providing the temporary accommodation, but that no decisions had been made.

In this instance, it is being claimed that the MoD and contractors had received formal instructions from central government to transfer the camp to the Home Office.

South Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West MP Simon Hart, who is also Secretary of State for Wales, said in his capacity as an MP today: “A number of people have asked for further information about the possible use of Penally Camp for housing up to 500 asylum seekers whilst their situation is assessed. The Home Office is meeting Pembrokeshire County Council County Council later today, after which further information should be available.”

Penally's county councillor, Jon Preston, said that during a long conversation with a home office immigration service director this morning, "apologies were given for the way in which this situation has unfolded following a possible leak of UK government sensitive information.

"I am advised that an influx of over 330 boats have arrived on UK shores carrying people seeking asylum over the last few days and that this has been the case for many weeks. It remains an unavoidable fact that the UK government are obliged to provide food, shelter and medical aid to those who arrive.

"Due to Covid-19, it has become increasingly more difficult to find suitable shelters and there now stands an ‘urgent’ need to explore alternative sites. The teams seen at Penally Training Camp over the weekend were immigration officers and private contact service providers.

"The purpose of their attendance was to carry out a scoping exercise and assess the suitability of the training camp as a holding unit for up to around 250 refugees."

Councillor Preston added that key points to note were: 

*No decision has yet been made but the situation is developing at pace.

*Immigration officials are meeting with Pembrokeshire county council, Welsh government and the chief of police this afternoon. (my request to attend was declined)

*If Penally training unit is to be used it would be in the ‘short term’ of approximately six months.

*All incoming refugees are screened on arrival and placed in appropriate accommodation (for deportation or asylum)

*The impact on the local community will be assessed

He continued: I have made it clear to the Home Office that whilst I fully appreciate the need to accommodate those fleeing from persecution, my role is to represent the people of Penally who would be directly affected by such a decision.

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

"To this end I have put forward alternative suitable  sites that would have a far lesser impact on the local community but would have the infrastructure to care for refugees. Swinderby is a former RAF recruit training unit in Lincoln, or if the location is a determining factor Cawdor Barracks (formerly RAF Brawdy). The Home Office showed genuine interest in these sites and will carry out further analysis.

"I should have additional information this afternoon following the various meetings that are taking place today. However, I am sure you are all aware that such a decision  would be made by the UK government and is largely out of the hands of Welsh government and the Local Authority.

"Anyone wishing to comment should in the first instance contact Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales. simon.hart.mp@parliament.uk

Cllr Preston has also contacted Mr Hart asking: "Please could you advise me on what plans (if any) are being made for such a facility and if you, as Secretary of State for Wales. intend to support or oppose moves to accommodate asylum seekers at Penally camp."