COUNCIL and health chiefs, together with politicians and faith leaders, have voiced their concerns to the Home Secretary about the decision to house asylum seekers in Penally Camp.

Urging Priti Patel to reconsider the plan, they also emphasised: "We are particularly disappointed with the lack of communication and discussion with local stakeholders such as Pembrokeshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board and the local community."

The letter continued:

Proper consultation would have immediately made it clear that Penally Camp is unsuitable accommodation, particularly for men who may have experienced trauma, great hardship and have been separated from their families. The buildings are in a poor condition, in a rural location with one village shop and no established support network."

"It is unprecedented in Wales that people seeking asylum are ‘cohorted’ together in such a large number in unsuitable accommodation. We have real concerns that they are being moved out of rented accommodation within the Wales refugee support network.

"We have four dispersal centres in Wales: Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham. These areas have well-established infrastructures to welcome and care for asylum seekers. Accommodation, health, pastoral and cultural care and legal advice are readily available and funded in these areas No such infrastructure or funding exists in Pembrokeshire. It is our opinion that this decision is wrong both for our local community and for the welfare of these men who are seeking sanctuary in our country.

Pembrokeshire is a warm, welcoming county and we can assure you that those who live here would be only too keen to show their compassion for those who have suffered greatly. Sadly, the way in which this sensitive issue has been handled can only have added to their trauma and given them the wrong impression of the area in which we live.

"It has also created a sense of fear and uncertainty among those who live here.

"We are keen to hold out the hand of friendship to those in need but we are also aware of the feelings of local residents and are keen to maintain a sense of ‘community cohesion.’ If there had been a more considered and caring approach, we would not have witnessed the ugly scenes that took place outside the camp last Monday (21st September 2020).

"It is vital that all stakeholders be involved in any future decisions. We need no ‘winners’ and losers. We will all lose if we do not move together. We will do all we can to support both the local community and the asylum seekers you intend to place here, but we ask you to listen to our real concerns and reverse your decision."

The letter is signed by Cllr David Simpson, leader, Pembrokeshire County Council; Ian Westley, chief executive, Pembrokeshire County Council; Maria Battle, chair, Hywel Dda University Health Board; Steve Moore, chief executive, Hywel Dda University Health Board; Angela Burns MS, member of the Senedd for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire;

Cllr Jonathan Preston, Pembrokeshire County Council (Penally).

Reverend Rob James, church moderator, Deer Park Baptist Church, Tenby;

Reverend Stella Hayton, minister, St Johns Methodist and United Reformed Church in Tenby and United Reform Churches in Pembroke, Templeton and Reynalton; Reverend Michael Bave, Bethel Baptist Church, Pembroke Dock;

Father Mansel Usher, Holyrood and St Teilo’s Catholic Church Tenby and St Bride's, Saundersfoot; Father Matt Roche-Saunders: St David & St Patrick Catholic Church, Haverfordwest; Father Liam Bradley: St David and St Patrick Catholic Church, Haverfordwest; Abdul Haseeb Hussain: Imam Hamad Bin Khalifa Islamic Centre, Milford Haven; Dr Baba M Gana, chairman, West Wales Islamic Cultural Association and Euryl Howells, senior chaplain, Hywel Dda University Health Board.

Copies have also been sent to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP and Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart and Welsh Government chief whip, Jane Hutt.