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Backlash as ‘evil’ Home Office paints over Mickey Mouse mural at child asylum seeker centre | Politics News

Murals of cartoon characters on the walls of an asylum centre for unaccompanied children have been painted over after an order from the immigration minister, the Home Office has confirmed.

Robert Jenrick ordered the removal of the murals at the centre in Kent in April, which depicted characters such as Baloo from The Jungle Book and Mickey Mouse, because they were thought to be too welcoming, the i newspaper reported.

The paper said staff were “horrified” by the “cruel order” and were resisting carrying out the work.

But the Home Office has confirmed the murals were removed on Tuesday.

The i reported that Mr Jenrick also ordered colourful welcome signs to be removed as he wanted to make clear the centre was a “law enforcement environment” and “not a welcome centre”.

Guy Venables, a cartoonist for Private Eye, The Spectator and Metro, said the “evil” removal of the artwork showed the government was “nosediving into appealing to their lowest voters”.

He told Sky News: “The victims of this are the sort of victims who really can’t stand up for themselves.

“So whenever this sort of thing happens it gets us cartoonists’ necks up because this is what we rail against the whole time.”

He said a “huge list of highly regarded cartoonists” had offered to repaint the mural, but they were holding off for now because “it is politically sensitive” at the moment and “access is difficult because it is a child zone”.

However, he said they could help out with other projects, such as picture cards for children who cannot speak English, adding: “A good thing has come out of something that is particularly bad, which is nice.”

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Asked what would happen if the cartoonists repainted the mural and the government ordered it removed again, Mr Venables said: “We will be cartoonists for a lot longer than Robert Jenrick will be in mainstream politics.

“So we’ll paint it back on. If they paint it over, we’ll carry on. It’s all you can do about this kind of evil.”

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick reportedly felt the mural gave the impression the UK was 'welcoming' to asylum seekers crossing the Channel
Mr Jenrick reportedly wanted to make clear the centre was a ‘law enforcement environment’

‘Utterly absurd’

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock told the i: “The idea that painting over murals and removing entertainment for unaccompanied children in immigration centres will somehow stop the boats is utterly absurd.

“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.”

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

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“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.

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“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 pointed to other features at the facility, which opened in November 2022, such as larger and softer interview rooms, an outside space, prayer rooms, a larger reception area and improved security measures.

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