The U.K.’s Immigration Minister Ordered the Removal of Cartoon Murals at an Asylum Center to Avoid ‘an Impression of Welcoming’

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When U.K. immigration minister Robert Jenrick visited an asylum center in Kent, he allegedly took issue with the cheerful murals of cartoons characters in the reception area and ordered their removal.

Jenrick wanted it to be clear that this was a “law enforcement environment” and “not a welcome center,” the facility’s staff told .

“The Immigration Minister said pictures of cartoons and animals must be removed and that staff should make sure they are painted over, as they give an impression of welcoming, which Mr. Jenrick didn’t want to show,” Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council, told .

The artwork, of course, is designed to make children—often arriving alone in a strange country after a harrowing journey—feel comfortable.

Workers at the asylum centre are said to be ‘horrified’ about the ‘cruel’ order handed down by Robert Jenrick and were trying to think of ways to ‘avoid’ it, a source told @theipaper https://t.co/6eT33gTqXZ

— i newspaper (@theipaper) July 5, 2023

“All children receive a welfare interview on their arrival at accommodation, which includes questions designed to identify potential indicators of trafficking or safeguarding issues,” a Home Office spokesperson told the , when asked about the experiences of child migrants.

The paintings at the Kent center include Disney characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Tom and Jerry from Warner Bros.

“Staff had painted cartoons and animals to provide some comfort and reassurance for lone children who had made unimaginably difficult journeys in perilous conditions,” Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, told . “For the immigration minister to interfere like this is incomprehensible.”

Thus far, the center’s staff has refused to acquiesce to Jenrick’s “cruel” demand.

As of press time, the immigration minister had not responded to inquiries from Artnet News.

Migrants have been arriving in the U.K. in record numbers, with an all-time high of 11,000 Channel crossings in June. Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made “stop the boats” one of his five key pledges, but the U.K.’s Border Force is now predicting as many as 55,000 monthly migrant arrivals, according to the .

The ongoing migrant crisis has inspired a number of artists, including the famed street artist Banksy, who has financed a migrant rescue ship. Italian authorities detained the vessel, christened the , in March.

 

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