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Asylum-seekers in Wales given undercooked rice and chicken, campaigners warn

ASYLUM-SEEKERS at an ex-army camp in Pembrokeshire are being given undercooked rice and chicken with feathers still attached, campaigners have claimed. 

Local campaigners are demanding urgent changes to the “appalling” and “degrading” conditions at Penally camp where 250 asylum-seekers are being held. 

Reports of undercooked rice “swimming in water” and chicken served with feathers attached, are among the concerns raised. 

Stand Up to Racism West Wales said at the weekend that residents were forced to drink from bathroom taps as drinking water often ran out, toilets and showers were constantly broken and residents have faced aggression from staff. 

A resident who has lived in the camp for more than two months told the Morning Star that the conditions were “very difficult.”

“They give us rice which has been boiled, doesn’t taste cooked, it’s just raw, all the vegetables are uncooked,” said the man, who asked not to be named over fear for his family’s safety in another country. 

“It’s too difficult, showers, bathrooms, are outside … for example, toilets were blocked for two weeks.

“Sometimes I don’t want to go to toilet early in the morning or at night. First you have to put your coat on, you might catch cold outside. 

“This is military training camp, this is not a camp for refugees. This is just somewhere for soldiers, it is too difficult in winter to stay here.

“I think that they sent us to die here altogether really, thank God that no-one is affected by Covid. If someone was affected by Covid, everyone would be affected.”

Asylum-seekers at the camp sleep in rooms of six to eight with no privacy, separated by pieces of plywood. 

The calls come after camp residents wrote to contractor Clearsprings Ready Homes, which manages the site, and the Home Office last month.  

The letter, seen by the Morning Star, claims that management are not meeting their basic needs.

It highlights sources of frustration among residents including the “routine refusal” of requests for additional slices of bread.

In recent weeks kettles donated by local charities to camp residents were confiscated by staff over health and safety concerns.

Head of legal protection at the Helen Bamber Foundation Jennifer Blair said that being denied extra food could trigger past traumas for survivors of captivity and those who have experienced food deprivation and starvation.

“Reports are that one of the largest ethnic groups in the camp is people from the Horn of Africa — so Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia — and many will have transited through Libya, where many will have been subjected to modern slavery with severe food deprivation,” she told the Morning Star.

“For people with that recent past trauma, they need to know they can access food in order to feel safe.

“If people are being left cold and hungry in the camps this will combine with their history of trauma in a way which is inhumane and unethical.”

SUTR West Wales said it wants the camp to shut down entirely but in the meantime is calling for management to meet the residents’ demands for adequate and healthy food, drinkable water and toilets and showers to be cleaned and maintained. 

These must be implemented before Christmas, the campaigners urged. The group is also calling for members of the public to email Home Secretary Priti Patel, local Tory MP Simon Hart MP and the director of Clearsprings Ready Homes Steve Lakey to tell them to act now.

Anti-racist campaigner Patrick Connellan said: “The conditions have not improved despite the very very best efforts of outside organisations.

“Thursday last week they actually ran out of drinking water. Clearsprings, who manage the camp, are completely and utterly incompetent.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “In Penally, we also provide asylum-seekers with free meals. This support is paid for by the taxpayer.

“We are in regular contact with accommodation providers and the meals provided are high quality and in line with NHS Eatwell guidelines.”

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