Penally: Home Office 'sorry' over lack of asylum camp talks

image captionThe military camp at Penally can house up to 230 asylum seekers and will be in use for the next 12 months

The Home Office has apologised to residents of a Pembrokeshire village for not engaging them before housing asylum seekers at a military base.

Asylum seekers will be housed at a camp in Penally for the next year.

In a meeting with the county council and Welsh Secretary, a Home Office representative said the plan had not been communicated well with locals.

The council's leader said he hoped the meeting had expelled "myths and wild speculation" about the camp.

Deborah Chittenden, head of strategy and projects at the Home Office, said the government department had acted fast due to an "urgent need" to provide suitable accommodation for asylum seekers, but apologised for not communicating with residents.

She said: "It was a necessity to use this site. We needed to act fast in the face of an urgent need to support destitute asylum seekers. The asylum system is under pressure and this 'blockage' is temporary."

On Sunday, Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary and MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said he had not been told of the UK government's plans to use the military base.

Jon Preston, from Pembrokeshire county council, said the facility was unsuitable and said the community had been "totally overlooked".

image captionMore than 150 protesters and counter-protesters made their feelings known outside the camp at the end of September

Residents protested against the use of the site over recent weeks, while some men who were housed there said they were "shocked" by the conditions inside the camp.

Supt Anthony Evans from Dyfed-Powys Police said recent criminal activity at the protests was being investigated and additional police resources would be deployed to the area.

David Simpson, the leader of the council said: "I understand the webcast was viewed live by around 400 people so hopefully it addressed some of the myths and wild speculation that has surrounded the presence of the asylum seekers in our community."

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