A WEST Wales council has spoken of its ‘grave concerns’ over Home Office plans to use a hotel and spa to house 300 asylum seekers.
Carmarthenshire County Council says it has been informed of a proposal by the Home Office to consider the Stradey Park Hotel, Llanelli for the purpose of providing contingency accommodation for a large number, believed to be in excess of 300, asylum seekers.
Carmarthenshire County Council, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn and Hywel Dda University Health Board are extremely concerned by the risks raised by this proposal and have brought these to the attention of the Home Office.
Concerns include the impact it will have on the cohesion of the local community, service delivery – which include the availability of school places and access to local health services and GP services, and the risk and the suitability of the accommodation to the asylum seekers themselves.
Carmarthenshire County Council says that the venue is wholly unsuited for the purpose proposed and believe that to proceed further would require planning permission.
Carmarthenshire County Council says it has fully supported and successfully delivered the dispersed model currently used to re-settle Syrian, Afghan, Ukrainian and general asylum seekers in recent years.
A council spokesperson added: “The dispersed model of accommodation provision is more sustainable in offering a longer-term solution for asylum seekers, especially in a county such as Carmarthenshire.
“The council believe that the model of accommodating large numbers of asylum seekers in one concentrated site has the potential to totally undermine the dispersed scheme and is not the appropriate way to accommodate people who are seeking asylum.
“Whilst the council has not had sight of what it assumes is a detailed proposal, the engagement with the Home Office has to date been inconsistent and has disregarded all of their well-founded concerns.
“The proposal and engagement by Clearsprings (the Home Office private housing provider) has been disappointing, giving the council no confidence that they understand the local or national context they intend to work within.
“The council and its public sector partners will continue to liaise with the Home Office on this matter with the view to strongly recommend not to proceed with this proposal however continue with the commitment to deliver the dispersed model.”
Cllr Darren Price, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council added: “We in Carmarthenshire are a welcoming county and have a strong track record of supporting asylum seekers and refugees. Over recent years, the dispersal model has worked well here and we are keen to continue to play our part in taking in our share of asylum seekers.
“We have already housed a significant number of Syrian, Afghan, Ukrainian and general asylum seeker households but this has been achieved through a co-ordinated and planned approach. It is for this reason that the placements have been successful.
“As a council, we have grave concerns around the intention of the Home Office to accommodate in excess of 300 asylum seekers in one concentrated space, the Stradey Park Hotel. We believe that it will have a detrimental effect on the local community and will place significant strain on education and health services. We also believe that accommodating so many people within this relatively confined space would bring about welfare issues for the asylum seekers themselves.
“In addition to this, the hotel is frequently used not only for tourism purposes but also for community events and weddings and is in close proximity to some of the county’s key attractions at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Path as well as the Gower Peninsula.
“The loss of this hotel would harm the local economy and impact on local families and the local community.”
Dafydd Llywelyn, Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner said: “From a local, and national perspective, I find the lack of strategic planning by the Home Office around temporary accommodation for asylum seekers extremely concerning.
“There has been no local engagement or any form of consultation with local service providers to understand the impact of locating in excess of 300 asylum seekers at one location in Llanelli. This has resulted in unnecessary pressure being put on local resources and service providers once again, who will now be working tirelessly to make the best of this difficult situation.”
Steve Moore, Hywel Dda University Health Board Chief Executive said: "As a Nation of Sanctuary, we must never lose sight of the human tragedy that drives people to risk the dangers of travelling to our shores in order to seek asylum. They will often have faced trauma and deprivation, which has an effect on their physical health and mental wellbeing. It is therefore essential that their healthcare needs, as well of those of the wider local community, are fully considered and resourced before any relocation plans are enacted."
Dame Nia Griffith MP said: “It is shocking that the Home Office is seeking yet more hotel accommodation, and expecting the County Council, with all their other responsibilities, just to step in and provide the necessary services. I fully understand that local residents may have concerns, and I will raise them with the Home Office.”
Lee Waters MS added: "We are a welcoming community and want to play our part in providing sanctuary to deeply vulnerable people who have undergone significant trauma. But this model of accommodating large numbers of asylum seekers in one concentrated site is not sensible. We will all do our best to make it work but this is the wrong way to go about it."
Cllr. Martyn Palfreman and Cllr. Edward Skinner, both representing the Hengoed ward said: “As local councillors, we understand there will be real concerns in Furnace and across the surrounding areas about these proposals. Local residents will rightly worry about the potential impact on the community such as extra pressure on local services. However, of equal concern is the fact that this would mean vulnerable people who have fled from danger in their home countries being forced to live in cramped conditions, not allowed to work or play a full role in society, as they wait for their asylum claims to be processed. There are no winners in this scenario. We will be monitoring local developments closely and would encourage anyone with specific concerns to contact us directly”.