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Nigel Farage blasts ‘mean’ Home Office removal of Mickey Mouse art at children’s asylum centre

Nigel Farage has criticised the Home Office’s decision to paint over murals of cartoon figures at an asylum centre for lone children, describing it as “a bit mean”.

i revealed on Tuesday that the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, ordered the removal of artworks of figures such as Mickey Mouse and Baloo from The Jungle Book because they were “too welcoming” in April.

The Home Office confirmed that the work was carried out at the Kent asylum intake unit on Tuesday. It is understood that private contractors were used, after staff at the centre refused to act.

Despite Rishi Sunak having backed Mr Jenrick over the controversial move, senior Whitehall officials and some moderate Tory MPs are understood to be appalled.

Now, the former Brexit Party and UKIP leader, who often pushes the Government to crack down on Channel crossings, has joined them in suggesting the decision to target children was a step too far.

Mr Farage told i: “Whilst those crossing the Channel should not get four star treatment, this measure is a bit mean.”

He added: “These kids are just pawns in a criminal enterprise.”

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 28: Nigel Farage, British politician and leader of the Brexit Party, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 (CPAC) hosted by the American Conservative Union on February 28, 2020 in National Harbor, MD. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Nigel Farage suggested the Home Office’s decision went too far (Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty)

The Prime Minister’s spokesman suggested the decision was designed to “deter” asylum seekers from crossing the Channel as part of the Mr Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats”.

The spokesman said: “We want to ensure that children who come into our care are safe, secure, they’re supported. And we need to make clear to broader arrivals that if you come here illegally, you will be removed.

“And ultimately, we want to deter people including families from making these dangerous profit crossings which are putting lives at risk.”

Whitehall officials have privately expressed their disapproval at Mr Jenrick’s order, with one telling i it was an “unforced error”.

Another was surprised by Mr Jenrick’s approach, i understands, having assumed he would take a more moderate stance on migration, while another accused him of trying to compete with his boss, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, to be the toughest minister.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick had noticed some small pictures of Disney characters on the walls of a centre for unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Kent and ordered them to be painted over. (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick noticed some small pictures of Disney characters on the walls of a centre for unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Kent and ordered them to be painted over (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

One former Tory former government adviser added: “The country is going to the dogs so we will instead focus on painting over a picture of Mickey Mouse to cheer up kids who have fled with only the clothes on their backs.

“What an absolute fucking disgrace.”

Tory Peer Lord Kirkhope, a former immigration minister who oversaw the 1996 UN Bosnian refugee resettlement programme, described the decision as “unfortunate”.

Labour has said Mr Jenrick, an ally of Mr Sunak, was “putting Britain to shame” and the Liberal Democrats described the order as “the worst kind of trivial nastiness” and a “waste of taxpayer money”.

Natasha Tsangarides, associate director of advocacy at Freedom from Torture, said: “The news that the immigration minister has in fact made staff paint over murals at a refugee reception centre shows just how contemptible this Government really is.

“But the millions of caring people up and down the UK will not stand for this. And compassion and reason are winning. Just last week the Government suffered major blows with the Court of Appeal ruling its immoral Rwanda scheme is unlawful and key defeats to their cruel refugee ban Bill in the House of Lords.

“Instead of continuing to punish people who’ve already been through so much, this Government should concentrate on rebuilding an asylum system that treats people with dignity and kindness.”

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