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  • Louise Wagon

Children's murals in asylum center deemed "too welcoming"

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

During a visit to an asylum center in Kent, UK immigration minister Robert Jenrick reportedly ordered the removal of murals in an asylum center to avoid "a welcoming impression".

Photograph of British minister Robert Jenrick
British Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick © Carl Court/Getty Images

The Home Office has ordered the removal of child-friendly murals from Manston detention camp near Ramsgate, as well as from the Kent admissions unit in Dover. The Minister reportedly felt that the murals at the Kent asylum center, which depicted characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Tom and Jerry, and other animals, gave "too welcoming an impression" to asylum seekers and did not reflect the repressive nature of the place.

Robert Jenrick wanted the asylum center to show that it was a "law enforcement environment" and "not a welcome center," facility staff told I Newspaper.

Photos of murals depicting Tom & Jerry and Mickey and Minnie Mouse
Photo taken by Kent Asylum Centre showing murals of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Tom & Jerry

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said the murals were designed to comfort children who often arrive alone in a foreign country after a harrowing journey. Migrant children receive a welfare interview on arrival in a home, aimed at identifying any indicators of trafficking or protection issues.

The center's staff refused to comply with Jenrick's request and kept the murals in place. A Home Office spokesman said that the minister had simply expressed his personal opinion and that there had been no official instruction to remove the murals.

The UK is facing a sharp rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel into the country, reaching a record 11,000 Channel crossings in June. Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has adopted a tough policy towards asylum seekers, seeking to deter them from coming and send them back to other countries.

The current migrant crisis has been a subject of inspiration for many artists, including the famous street artist Banksy, who funded a migrant rescue ship called MV Louise Michel. However, Italian authorities stopped the vessel in March, highlighting growing tensions over the arrival of migrants in Europe.


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