Lobbying Carmarthenshire council against Plaid Cymru's cuts March 2020 (uploaded 11/03/2020)
Lobbying Carmarthenshire council against Plaid Cymru's cuts March 2020 (uploaded 11/03/2020)

Mark Evans, Branch Secretary Carmarthenshire County UNISON Branch (personal capacity)

The rushed and secretive Home Office plan to house 207 asylum seekers in Stradey Park Hotel’s 77 rooms by 3 July, without consultation with the local Llanelli community, has inevitably resulted in opposition to the plans. Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda Health Board and other public bodies only received the plans at the last minute.

Around four hundred people attended a meeting in the Selwyn Samuel Centre where the Furnace Action Committee was set up to oppose the plans.

Carmarthenshire County Council has accepted asylum seekers; its policy has been to locate them across the wider community in Carmarthenshire. Putting up to 207 asylum seekers in a hotel in Llanelli will put significant pressure on council and health services locally that have been cut to the bone and underfunded for many years, due to Tory cuts passed on by a Labour Welsh Government and administered by Plaid and Labour-led Carmarthenshire County Council.

Local residents’ concerns of how local services will cope are justified in this regard.

We understand that staff working at the hotel have already been dismissed to make way for Home Office staff. This could have a knock-on effect of further jobs going in local companies supplying the hotel etc.

This is hardly creating a welcoming environment for asylum seekers. But this Tory government wants the opposite.

They wish to scapegoat asylum seekers in an attempt to bolster their dwindling support.

Feeding off local people’s concerns, the far right have joined protests outside the hotel with the sole intention of whipping up racism and opposition to asylum seekers wherever they are housed.

It is not the fault of asylum seekers where they are placed, they need to be housed in appropriate accommodation. How will 207 asylum seekers fit into seventy-seven rooms?

It is the decision of the hotel owners, Sterling Woodrow, that has resulted in people losing their jobs. It begs the question, if the hotel was a going concern, how much are the hotel owners being paid by the Home Office?

The council has a strategy to house asylum seekers across the wider community; why doesn’t the government fund the council to do this? Why doesn’t the council put up a fight for this money? If council services and other public services had not been cut to the bone since 2010 by the Tories, the council and the health service would be a far better place to provide housing and services for all.

This Tory government is treating the residents of Furnace and Llanelli, and asylum seekers, deplorably. Many asylum seekers have suffered trauma and face difficulties such as emotional and mental health problems and have to endure discrimination and racism.

The Home Office and the far right are attempting to create a hostile atmosphere for those that have suffered too much already.