Penally camp in Pembrokeshire used to house asylum seekers putting huge strain on west Wales police

  • Video report by ITV Wales journalist, Jess Main

Police in west Wales say a former military base in Pembrokeshire, which is being used to house asylum seekers, is putting a huge strain on the force.

Penally camp has been at the centre of protests since September. 

At the height of the demonstrations, Chief Superintendent Jon Cummins said up to 70 officers a day were needed and it put a huge strain on a force that had just seen an exceptionally busy summer following the first lockdown.

"It unfortunately has attracted people from the far right, and they have come in from other parts of the UK to protest", he said.

"We have seen quite a significant impact. At its peak we were looking at around 70 officers a day. The impact is such that we have had to seek mutual aid from other forces in some small cases.”

171 Asylum Seekers are currently staying at the MOD camp on the outskirts of the village of Penally. One man agreed to tell us about the conditions inside, but he didn’t want to be identified. 

He said in some cases six men are sharing one room.

"We have shared everything, bathrooms, shower rooms, the place we eat in. The place is secured by guards who don’t allow you to enter after 10pm. I’ve never seen things like this before", he said.

Last month the First Minister criticised the Home Office for behaving "unacceptably" and failing "to address serious issues regarding living conditions at Penally military camp".

Demonstrations are still ongoing, but Chief Superintendent Jon Cummins says even on a peaceful day Penally is still putting them under extra pressure.

“If there aren’t any protests specifically and we’re dealing with the routine policing challenges that Penally brings and supporting the community we’re looking at around about 20 officers per day.”

Denise Williams lives in a house overlooking the camp. She says they had no warning from the Home Office that the site would be being used to house asylum seekers. She said the disruption to their lives has been huge and "you can hear the noise from the camp."

She added: "There are lots of police back and forth. We have never had anything like that. Nobody’s bothered to get in touch with us about it, nobody’s asking how it’s affecting our lives.”

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson told us they are working with the community, and participated in a public Q&A to address concerns around this site.

"The Government takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the communities in which they live extremely seriously. We are fulfilling our statutory obligation to support those on the site, including with health support.

"Our asylum system is broken and we are determined to introduce a new system that is firm and fair."