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Mickey Mouse mural painted over at Dover Kent Intake Unit for child asylum seekers

Murals of Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry at a unit for child asylum seekers have been painted over on the orders of the Immigration Minister.

Robert Jenrick instructed the cartoons at the Kent Intake Unit in Dover be whitewashed because they sent too welcoming a message.

The murals at Dover's Kent Intake Unit, that were painted over on Tuesday. Picture: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
The murals at Dover's Kent Intake Unit, that were painted over on Tuesday. Picture: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

The Home Office confirmed the murals were removed on Tuesday.

Opened last November, the unit looks after unaccompanied child asylum seekers.

The facility reportedly offers the children held there softer interview rooms, outside space and prayer rooms alongside increased security measures to ensure their safety.

First reported by the i, which said sources inside the centre were “horrified” by Mr Jenrick's order and that staff tried to prevent the murals being destroyed.

In response to the incident, Care4Calais spokesman Charlotte Khan, said: “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?

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

The outdoor area at the Kent Intake Unit, pictured here last month. Picture: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
The outdoor area at the Kent Intake Unit, pictured here last month. Picture: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Guy Venables, a cartoonist who has drawn for Private Eye and The Spectator, quickly got in touch with the Kent Intake Unit and offered to replace the mural.

He proceeded to reach out to other professional illustrators, many of whom also offered their support.

He said: “Utterly appalled by what I heard about the painting over of the murals. I got in touch with the Professional Cartoonists Organisation of which I am a member. My offer was simple. We would go down there, en masse, and do another mural. A huge one.

“The children's refugee centre got back in touch. There were complications with access, specific criteria for people working in the child only environment. Possibly political implications, as Robert Jenrick is their boss it might be tricky! They politely declined, but said, they're very keen to have us all involved, if not in this specific project.

“After all, Jenrick might, just might think twice about vandalising several professional national cartoonist's work just to deny a vulnerable child something fun to look at.

“And if he painted over it again, we will paint it again. After all we'll be cartoonists long after he's left mainstream politics.”

Last month a report published by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons said the Kent Intake Unit, along with the Manston and Western Jet Foil centres, had shown improvement since previous inspections.

However the inspectors did note continuing issues, particularly regarding medical isolation practices.

A spokesperson for the Home Office told the BBC: "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."

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