ANSWERS are being sought from the Home Office on its future plans for Penally Camp.

As the Western Telegraph reported last week, Home Office immigration minister Chris Philp stated that it is intended to move all the asylum seekers from the camp into 'suitable dispersed accommodation as soon as reasonably practical’ and they were hoping to start moves - albeit for small numbers of people - from last Monday, January 18.

But clarification is being called for on whether this move spells the end of the current role for the former Ministry of Defence facility.

A law firm said it had already secured the move of 20 ‘vulnerable’ individuals from the camp into other accommodation.

The minister’s statement, following a Parliamentary question from Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain, was hailed as ‘hopeful news’ by the party, although it called for evidence that people are actually moving out of the camp.

As calls continue from inside and outside the camp for the asylum seekers to be re-housed because of their reportedly unsuitable conditions,Mr Philp has not yet elaborated further on his statement.

Via the Home Office this week, he said:

“Asylum seekers housed at Penally are staying in safe, suitable, Covid-compliant accommodation where they receive three nutritious meals a day.

“People are routinely moved between asylum accommodation venues from time to time for a variety of reasons.

“We are fixing our asylum system to make it firm and fair.

"We will be bringing forward legislation which will stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes."

And further answers are hoped for this week with the tabling of questions to Home Secetary Priti Patel by Plaid Cymru's leader in Westminster, Liz Saville-Roberts.

She is asking:

  • what is the government's timetable 'for the transfer of all individuals' from the camp
  • how many people were housed at the camp as of January 21
  • when the Home Office plans to stop transferring asylum seekers to the camp
  • what type of accommodation and location asylum seekers being transferred out of the Penally training camp are being placed in.
  • whether other Ministry of Defence sites will be used to house individuals being transferred out of the Penally training camp.

A multi-agency meeting is understood to have taken place last week with stakeholders including Pembrokeshire County Council, where the Home Office was also urged to clarify its intentions for the camp.

Wendy Chamberlain MP has also asked the Home Secretary further questions, including about the arrangements for the asylum seekers to receive mental health support as well as what action has been taken to speed up the processing of asylum seekers.

According to the Refugee Council, at the end of September 2020, 60,548 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, 46,108 (76 per cent) have been waiting for more than six months, up from 26,125 this time last year.

An update is due to be heard by Pembrokeshire County Council's scrutiny committee today, Tuesday January 26 on the authority's involvement.