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Deputy First Minister says use of Penally Camp needs to end ‘as quickly as possible’

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THE DEPUTY MINISTER of the Welsh Government has issued a lengthy statement stating that the end of the camp should end as quickly as possible

Jane Hutt MS, who is also the Chief Whip, says that the camp does not meet the basic human needs of people seeking a new life in the UK and that the camp risks re-traumatising many vulnerable people who may have been fleeing abuse and torture.

The full statement can be read here:

‘Equality and human rights are central to the work of the Welsh Government and our vision for Wales. We believe in fair treatment of every person, especially those who are most marginalised by social systems that prevent people from meeting their basic needs.

Now more than ever, we need to ensure that those seeking sanctuary are safe, secure and not at risk.

We can be proud of the way our nation has responded to successive refugee crises, providing a warm welcome and opportunities to integrate with our communities. However, the decision by the Home Office to use the Penally military camp as a centre to house asylum seekers is the direct opposite of the Nation of Sanctuary approach.

We believe the use of the camp should end as quickly as possible.

The Welsh Government has repeatedly expressed significant concerns about the suitability of the camp at Penally being used to accommodate asylum seekers.

The camp does not meet the basic human needs of people seeking a new life in the UK. It places people in accommodation, which is neither designed nor appropriate for long-term use – mainly poorly insulated huts – and risks re-traumatising many vulnerable people who may have been fleeing abuse and torture.

We sought a delay to the opening of the camp to ensure plans were put in place with local services to enable them to prepare for the arrival of asylum seekers, particularly to make sure covid-19 public health measures were in place. The Home Office denied this request and, as a result, proper measures have not been put in place.

We have made repeated reasoned approaches to the Home Office to make changes to protect the health and wellbeing of the asylum seekers relocated to Penally, while also continuing to engage with local residents.

The Nation of Sanctuary plan is built on the Well-being of Future Generations Act. We involve asylum seekers in our plans and seek to integrate people into communities from day one of their arrival in Wales.

We seek to prevent the most harmful outcomes, such as re-traumatisation and hate crime, while aiming for long-term solutions. We work collaboratively with partners and affected communities to ensure decisions are made constructively and transparently. Crucially we put the person at the centre of what we do – an individual’s needs are more important than their immigration status.

The Home Office’s decision to use Penally camp does none of these things and is incompatible with the Welsh Government’s approach to inclusive and cohesive communities.

We have yet to receive a clear rationale for the reason why the Home Office chose this site to relocate asylum seekers, nor have we been provided with a clear strategy about how the Home Office will address the lack of dispersal accommodation throughout Wales and the United Kingdom.

To date, there has been no financial help from the Home Office for these public bodies to deliver services in these exceptional circumstances during a period in which they have been under unprecedented pressure.

Public bodies in the area are understandably concerned by the potential impacts of this development on a small rural community.

Despite these constraints we are grateful for the spirit of collaboration and dedication with which public bodies locally have approached this situation and to members of the community who have provided a warm and supportive welcome.

I would like to thank the police, local authorities, the NHS and the third sector, and all of our partners for their flexibility and resourcefulness over the last few months. We remain grateful for their support and expertise.

The third sector has rallied to provide support to the asylum seekers transferred to the Penally camp. Migrant Help is coordinating offers of support and has been overwhelmed with gifts and welcome messages. English language tuition providers, including the Oasis centre, are working to provide tuition, Victim Support is engaging with individuals relating to hate crime and other organisations are seeking to understand and plug gaps in services, where they are able. Faith communities have worked on an inter-faith basis to ensure adequate facilities are put in place for religious observance.

I hope we can continue to build on these relationships going forward.’

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Politics

Pembrokeshire County Council considering ‘Fire-break’ implications

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FOLLOWING the First Minister’s announcement at lunchtime today (Oct 19) of an all-Wales ‘firebreak’ commencing on Friday, Pembrokeshire County Council is currently assessing the impact this will have on its services.

Council Leader, David Simpson, said: “I can provide assurance that detailed planning arrangements both internally, and externally with our partner agencies, are underway to ensure that we are well placed to meet any challenges which may arise.

“We will be issuing further updates over the coming days.”

Councillor Simpson added: “The First Minister has clearly said the ‘firebreak’ has been put in place due to the increasing level of cases across Wales.

“Although the restrictions do not come into force until Friday we all have to act now – early prevention can make a huge difference.”

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Politics

Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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Politics

Cardiff and London at loggerheads over who will pay the bill for the Wales-wide lockdown

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THE PLANNED national lockdown for Wales still has many details to finalise before any final announcement of its terms and length.

The major sticking point is money.

During the UK-wide national lockdown from March to July, the Westminster Government picked up the tab for paying Welsh workers’ wages and provided a massive amount of extra funding for business support.

From November 1, the UK government will support eligible businesses by paying two-thirds of each employee’s salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.

Businesses might also be eligible for grant support of up to £3,000 a month to meet other costs.

Devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive a total of £1.3bn in increased funding this year to cover similar measures.

Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to lockdown restrictions.

Council leaders across Wales have expressed their deep concern to Welsh Government ministers about the lack of any detail of what will be done to provide financial support to businesses, particularly those which are not forced to close by lockdown restrictions but close as a knock-on effect of lockdown.

Local authorities, which channelled most business support during the lockdown which began in March, have still not been told by the Welsh Government what help or how much will be available for businesses in that position, let alone how it will be delivered.

The sour relationship between the Welsh Government and Westminster is not likely to help Mark Drakeford’s administration if it looks for fresh funding help from the Treasury to bail it out of the wider economic consequences of a Wales-wide lockdown.

If the Welsh Government tries to go it alone to soften the blow, it faces making significant cuts elsewhere in its budgets.

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