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Welsh military camp will become new home for up to 180 Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban after helping British military forces

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A military camp in Wales will be used to house scores of people fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan, who risked their lives to support the UK.

A maximum of 180 people will be housed in East Camp – a Ministry of Defence (MoD) housing estate in St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan.

There are set to be 50 people in the first cohort of families seeking refuge from the Taliban, with half being children, South Wales Argus reports.

The journey to the sleepy village is said to be a one-way ticket for people who will probably never return to Afghanistan.

People arriving at the camp will be travelling from Pakistan, where they were previously residing to escape the Taliban. 

180 Afghans, who worked with the UK government and British forces, will be housed in a Ministry of Defence housing estate in St Athan, South Wales

180 Afghans, who worked with the UK government and British forces, will be housed in a Ministry of Defence housing estate in St Athan, South Wales

The site, which has the capacity to accommodate 200 people, will be used by families who are eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). 

ARAP supports people and their families who worked for, or with, the UK government and British armed forces in Afghanistan in different roles such as interpreters.

Afghan citizens who are eligible for relocation to the UK under ARAP can arrive in the country with dependent children, a partner, and additional relatives if they are deemed eligible by the MoD and suitable for relocation by the Home Office. 

On March 27, Colonel Sion Walker, Deputy Commander of 160th Welsh Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Jackson explained the ins-and-outs of the scheme.

According to them, Afghan families will initially be placed in a Reception Staging and Onward Movement (RSOM) site.

After six weeks, they will be moved into settled accommodations in various parts of the UK. 

When Afghans arrive they will be entitled to healthcare, and plans are already in place to make sure their children have access to education.

The families, who arrive under the ARAP scheme will have indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be able to go to and from the site as much as they wish.

East Camp was previously used as a training site for RAF tech students.

After discussions with the Welsh Government the MOD prolonged their lead until Christmas, according to South Wales Argus.

The MoD said it is working with the Welsh Government and the Vale of Glamorgan Council to ensure that the project is managed ‘with everybody in mind’, especially those who live locally.

An MoD spokesperson said: ‘We owe a debt of gratitude to those brave Afghans who risked their lives working alongside our forces in support of the UK mission.

‘To ensure ARAP-eligible families can begin a settled life in the UK as quickly as possible, the UK Government is offering transitional and settled accommodation from the Defence Estate, including at East Camp St Athan.

‘Eligible Afghans will be housed there temporarily for an approximate period of six weeks before moving to more settled accommodation.’

This comes after asylum seekers who were being housed in Penally, Pembrokshire were protesting about their living conditions on the site in 2020.

One demonstrator held up a sign saying: ‘We escaped from war to prison’ after being housed in the seaside village of Penally, Pembrokeshire.

Around 230 migrants were sent to the former army training centre in the sleepy holiday village after arriving in the UK from the Middle East.

Up to a dozen of the refugees protested outside the base holding signs saying: ‘Where are the human rights,’ and ‘we want justice’.

Others held carboard banners with ‘the refugee has a right to stay in a home’, ‘we want better conditions’, and ‘save us from Covid 19’.

The arrival of the men was initially met with protests from worried locals concerned over the impact on local services and house prices in the 800-population village.

Far right activists later joined in demonstrations and anti-racism groups also gathered at the centre.

The refugees – all aged 18-35 – arrived at Penally in September 2020 and are due to stay there for up to a year while their asylum claims are processed.

The men are mainly from Iraq and Iran.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has previously called for the men to be removed from Penally saying it is an unsuitable location.

They will have indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be able to go to and from the site as much as they wish (pictured: East Camp in St Athan)

They will have indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be able to go to and from the site as much as they wish (pictured: East Camp in St Athan)

Mr Drakeford said: ‘It is unacceptable that the Home Office has repeatedly failed to address serious issues regarding living conditions at Penally military camp.

‘The Welsh Government and local service providers have continually informed the Home Office of grave deficiencies in the standard of accommodation for asylum seekers. Home Office has so far failed to act in any meaningful way.

‘The welfare and safety of asylum seekers on site must not be compromised, and the wellbeing of the local community must be treated as priority by the Home Office.’

A Home Office spokesperson previously 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.’



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