Socialist Worker

Cold, hunger and racism—refugees trapped in Penally camp speak out over conditions

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2742

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism West Wales show solidarity with refugees in Penally last year

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism West Wales show solidarity with refugees in Penally last year (Pic: Stand Up To Racism West Wales )


Refugees trapped at a camp in west Wales are cold, hungry and live in constant fear of catching coronavirus.

Karim has been living in the camp in Penally, near Tenby, for four months. “We live six people to a room,” he told Socialist Worker. “We don’t have distance for coronavirus.

“If they cared about us, they would have put each person into their own room to be safe. But they don’t care.”

“And it’s so, so cold now.”

He added, “The guards aren’t nice—there’s a lot of racism. One told me if you want to go to your home country I can help you to go. It’s to scare us."

Blankets are provided, but this doesn’t provide enough protection from the appalling conditions. “The windows are broken,” explained Karim. “The room and conditions are not suitable for a human, we have water coming from the ceiling.

“All that makes the room cold.”

Hassan, another refugee in Penally, told Socialist Worker, “When I first came the toilet and shower were okay. Now there’s three or four times as many people here—it’s too many.

“The shower is not good, or the toilet. We use one toilet for 12 people.”

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On top of the appalling living conditions, some refugees in Penally are going hungry.

Karim hasn’t eaten a meal from the camp kitchen for around two months. “The food is for animals, not humans,” said Karim. “And in the kitchen the staff act so badly towards us.

“I’m not going to go to the kitchen to get a meal. It’s not cooked enough or it tastes and smells so bad.

“We complained to the Home Office and Migrant Help.

“One immigration health officer promised us it would change after a week. It’s been three months.”

Kind 

Hassan, who was one of the first at the camp, added, “Some couldn’t eat for three or four days as they are not used to this kind of food.

“Sometimes there are fights in the kitchen with the people who give out the food. People want to eat more because it’s cold and they’re hungry, but they refuse to give more.”

The refugees have recently been told they will all be moved out, but the trickle of people leaving doesn’t fill detainees with hope.

“Some people from the Home Office came here and said there are houses around London and Cardiff,” said Karim. “But they can’t take us there because of coronavirus.

“Change is not fast enough.”

The Tories are committed to making asylum seekers' lives as miserable as possible to deter other people coming to Britain.

Documents from the Home Office revealed that refugees are placed in former military barracks for fears that better accommodation would “undermine confidence” in the asylum system.

Karim says “it’s racism” that underpins Britain’s immigration system. “Everyone here doesn’t want to take money from the government,” he said. “They want to work and pay taxes.”

Patrick from Stand Up To Racism West Wales said the system relies on “calculated cruelty”. “Ten miles away there is a huge British army camp,” he told Socialist Worker.

“It’s the main place for practicing tank warfare and artillery. I heard from a Syrian refugee that he hides under his covers at night because hearing the bombardment takes him back to Damascus.

“The cruelty associated astounds me—but it’s calculated.”

Patrick described another incident where guards “wouldn’t let an ambulance in” after a hunger striking refugee collapsed. “They said he was putting it on,” he said. “And another refugee was singing, because he was in distress.

“The guards told other residents he was drunk and called police. He’s Muslim and doesn’t drink.

“The guards are outright bullies.”

Anti-racists must fight to close all the camps—and to dismantle the whole of Britain’s racist immigration system.

Names have been changed.
Join refugees and Stand Up To Racism campaigners at a meeting ‘Close all the Camps’ on Thursday 18th February at 6pm. Details here

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