Socialist Worker

Victory as Penally camp closes, but keep up battle for refugee rights

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2746

A wash room at Penally

A washroom at Penally (Pic: gov.uk)


Penally camp, the ex-army barracks in west Wales where refugees are held while their asylum applications are considered, is to close.

On Tuesday the 50 remaining residents were informed they would be moved to alternative accommodation. The site will be handed back to the Ministry of Defence by 21 March.

Stand Up To Racism West Wales said, “This is a massive victory for the refugees themselves who despite having to endure appalling conditions in the camp effectively organised themselves to resist their inhumane treatment by the Home Office.

“This is living proof that protesting against the Tories’ attempt to scapegoat refugees works.”

But Napier barracks in Kent will remain open. Last week a report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration said both sites were “filthy” and “cramped”.

Residents were trapped “in poor conditions” in camps “impoverished, run down and unsuitable for long term accommodation.”

Ervin, a refugee currently waiting to be moved out from Penally camp, told Socialist Worker, “I’m very happy that nobody else was going to experience this place and this situation anymore.”

Ervin said staying at the camp, which he was trapped in for six months since its opening, was “terrible”.

Protesting at Penally in solidarity with refugees last year

Protesting at Penally in solidarity with refugees last year (Pic: Stand Up To Racism West Wales)


“You think this will be a country of sanctuary, and the pain is going to be over. It takes people two years or more to get to this place,” he said. “But then you get here and experience all of this mess.

“I saw too many people badly depressed. There were people I hadn’t seen for two or three months and we were living in the same place.

“Really depressed people didn’t come out and just stayed in the dark.

“I tried to be strong and positive and started art activities and painting.”

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

Ervin explained that refugees will now be moved to other accommodation such as shared houses, or to hostels and hotels in cities like Swansea or Cardiff.

But whether in a hotel or a camp, Ervin says it feels like refugees are “kept out from local communities”.

Neglect

“It feels like neglect and that this society is not going to accept you,” he said. “I was not given a change to integrate. I want to work and study here and be useful.

“I believe that we should give the best chance to refugees. Most people are coming from countries where we haven’t been given a chance to show skills or talents.

“People need to be given this chance to improve themselves, not be oppressed or stuck in hotels.”

Ervin said he is from the Iranian part of Kurdistan. Despite have a good job, education and a daughter he couldn’t stay there.

He added, “Maybe we are made to feel like this because it’s part of the policy to make it hard for people and show this is not your dream country,” he said.

“The government blames refugees for their own problems.”

Refugees in Napier and Penally camps feel vindicated after damning report
Refugees in Napier and Penally camps feel vindicated after damning report
  Read More

Ervin says despite being happy about the camp's closure, he doesn’t know what's next for him. “I’m worried about where we will go. I have no idea where we will be going or how long it will take to hear about my asylum decision,” he explained.

“All I have is a letter that says we should pick up your case in six months. But then they sent another saying they need another six months and they can still send another.

“I am on a course, and face to face sessions are about to restart in Cardiff, but I don't know where I'm going. It’s all about waiting in uncertainty and you don’t know what happens next. It’s terrible.”

And the Tories are set to ramp up their attacks on refugees.

Next week the Home Office will release plans that could see refugees attempting to enter Britain removed to a third country while their asylum application is processed. There are reports that Turkey, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man are being considered as places where refugees would be housed.

 “The system is broken. The refugee system in Britain is broken,” Ervin said.

“Both sides, the government and the people on our side believe the system is broken for different reasons. But we will keep resisting.”

SUTR West Wales added, “We must now take this victory to ensure the end of the Tories’ plans for a hostile environment for refugees.

“The Home Office must grant asylum now to all those refugees who have suffered so much and so unnecessarily.”

Ervin is a pseudonym. Join SUTR’s day of action on 20 March for UN international anti-racism day. Find more here

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