Home Office paints over Mickey Mouse murals at child asylum seeker centre

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick declared them too welcoming, reports say

Britain's Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick leaves Downing Street following a cabinet meeting in London. PA
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Murals of cartoon characters on the walls of a centre for unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Kent have been painted over, the Home Office confirmed on Thursday.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick had ordered the removal of the murals, which depicted characters such as Baloo from The Jungle Book and Mickey Mouse, because they were thought to be too welcoming, the I reported on Tuesday.

It was reported that “horrified” staff were refusing to carry out the “cruel” order, but the Home Office has now confirmed the murals were painted over on Tuesday.

Staff at the unit, a bespoke building designed especially to meet the needs of lone asylum-seeking children, were told by Mr Jenrick to paint over the art in April.

He ordered the removal of the murals because he felt they gave the impression that the UK was “welcoming” to asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats, the I reported.

Mr Jenrick was “putting Britain to shame”, Labour said, while a former child refugee said the order was “an act of abject cruelty”.

“The idea that painting over murals and removing entertainment for unaccompanied children in immigration centres will somehow stop the boats is utterly absurd,” shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said.

“This is a sign of a chaotic government in crisis, whose failing approach means all they have left is tough talk and cruel and callous policies.

“We need a Labour government and our five-point plan to end the dangerous crossings, defeat the criminal smuggler gangs and end hotel use by clearing the asylum backlog.”

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“If Mickey Mouse is too ‘welcoming’ for ministers, the question is what will they replace him with in order to inflict more fear on traumatised asylum seeking children – Maleficent? Ursula? Maybe even Cruella herself?” Charlotte Khan of refugee charity Care4Calais said.

“The real villains in this sorry tale are Robert Jenrick and the rest of this heartless bunch that call themselves ministers.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael MP said: “This is the worst kind of trivial nastiness – a Mickey Mouse minister taking an axe to Mickey Mouse.

“Leaving the mural in place would have cost nothing.

“Like the government’s ridiculous Rwanda scheme, it is performative cruelty and a waste of taxpayer money.

“We deserve better than this small-minded stunt.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do all we can to ensure children are safe, secure and supported as we urgently seek placements with a local authority.

“All children receive a welfare interview on their arrival at accommodation, which includes questions designed to identify potential indicators of trafficking or safeguarding issues.

“Our priority is to stop the boats and disrupt the people smugglers.

“The government has gone further by introducing legislation which will ensure that those people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”

The Home Office also stated the other features at the facility that opened in November 2022, such as interview rooms, outdoors space, prayer rooms, a larger reception area and improved security measures.

Updated: July 06, 2023, 10:52 PM