THE potential use of a Ministry of Defence site in Pembrokeshire to house asylum seekers remains unconfirmed, despite a statement from the UK Government today (Tuesday).

Reports that Penally Training Camp had been handed over to the Home Office for a migrant camp for up to 250 people have caused widespread controversy and debate in recent days.

The government has stated it is seeking extra accommodation for refugees, but in line with protocol, will not be naming specific sites.

A spokesperson said: “During these unprecedented times the government is working with a range of partners and across departments to secure further accommodation and the MOD has offered use of some of its sites.

“When using contingency accommodation we work closely with organisations, including local authorities and law enforcement, throughout the process to ensure value for money and that vulnerable asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, have suitable accommodation while their claims are processed.”

However yesterday (Monday), Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart stated that the camp is ‘under active consideration’ as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

He added: “Following the submission of a request, the Ministry of Defence has commenced scoping options across the UK.

“One of the sites under active consideration is Penally Training Camp.

“The Home Office and the Ministry of Defence are working hard to ensure Penally Training Camp is compliant with Covid-19 regulations and will have minimal impact on the local community.

“It is estimated by the Home Office that the site would temporarily house around 250 people if this option is agreed.”

A meeting took place on Monday afternoon, reportedly including immigration officials, Pembrokeshire County Council officers and police.

Penally’s county councillor, Jon Preston, whose request to attend the meeting was refused, that a home office immigration service director had apologised to him ‘for the way this situation has unfolded following a possible leak of UK government sensitive information’.

He added: “I have made it clear to the Home Office that whilst I fully appreciate the need to accommodate those fleeting from persecution, my role is to represent the people of Penallyu who would be directly affected by such a decision.

“I have pointed out the fragility of our tourism industry during Covid-19 and the close proximity of the camp to the residential areas in Penally.”

Cllr Preston said he had suggested alternative sites, including Pembrokeshire’s Cawdor Barracks, in which the Home Office ‘showed genuine interest and will carry out further analysis’.

Speculation on the potential use of the Penally site erupted on social media over the weekend.

Similar rumours arose five years ago relating to Ministry of Defence camps at not only Penally, but Manorbier and Castlemartin.

At the time, the UK Government said that the MoD had advised on the possibility of providing the temporary accommodation, but that no decisions had been made.

Over 850 people joined a Facebook group, Penally Camp Protest, in less than a day after it was set up.

Commentators on social media have been urged to exercise caution in their remarks.

Marc Tierney, former parliamentary candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, hit out at the ‘online suspicion and unsavoury comment by some on social media’.

He said that Britain has ‘an important and vital role to play in supporting those seeking refuge in our country’ and that Pembrokeshire has a recognised reputation for welcoming those displaced in conflict.