Petition over drones given to Welsh Assembly

A PETITION calling for an end to the testing of unmanned aircraft from a base at Aberporth near Cardigan was being handed in to the Welsh Assembly as the Journal went to press.

Over 1,700 people have backed the call for the Welsh Government to withdraw its support for the tests.

The campaign has been organised by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales.

It says residents who live under the flight paths of the unmanned planes have safety concerns.

Group members also oppose the use of unmanned drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the Ministry of Defence says they are vital in protecting British troops and all the drones tested at Aberporth are unarmed.

The petition was being handed in for consideration by Assembly Members on the steps of the Senedd on Tuesday.

Fellowship secretary Arfon Rhys told the Journal the group was pleased with the number of people who had supported it.

“Obviously there’s more than one side to it,” he said.

“Local residents hear the noise of the drones overhead and are a bit frightened of them crashing.

“It does concern them as they are unmanned.

“Besides that, from our point of view it is the use of the drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

He said unmanned drones had been used in both countries by Western forces for military strikes.

“There are obviously many people who are obviously concerned and we are pleased with the support we’ve had,” added Mr Rhys.

An MoD spokeswoman stressed the aircraft flying out of Aberporth were unarmed.

She said: “Watchkeeper is an unarmed surveillance aircraft which will be used in Afghanistan to protect our forces from the threat of IEDs and insurgent attacks by delivering vital intelligence to commanders on the front line.

“All Watchkeeper flights in the UK take place within segregated airspace, authorised by the Civil Aviation Authority, to avoid built up areas.”

The petition was on the Welsh Assembly’s e-petition site.

Some people signed online while others added their names to a hardcopy that was circulated.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “The document will be forwarded to the National Assembly’s Petitions Committee for its consideration.”