Robert Jenrick, the minister of immigration, asserts that murals of cartoon characters that were removed from a Kent asylum center were covered because they were not “age-appropriate” for adolescent migrants.
Hilary Benn, a Labour MP, questioned Mr. Jenrick about the decision while he was speaking during a debate on amendments to the controversial Illegal Migration Bill.
Mr. Benn asked, “Could he please explain why he believed the murals on the walls of the Kent intake unit diminished the deterrent effect?”
Mr. Jenrick responded that he had made it his “special objective” to ensure that “we support these individuals appropriately” and that conditions in processing centers are “at all times decent and compassionate.”
“The majority of the unaccompanied children who passed through the location he describes last year were teenagers, and we did not feel that the location was appropriate for their age group,” he continued.
The immigration minister added that the website included access to picture books and a “range of support for children and infants.”
Mr. Jenrick continued, “Nothing about the decoration of sites changes the fundamentals, which are that if someone visits the United Kingdom, we will always treat them with decency and compassion.”
Last week, I reported exclusively that Mr. Jenrick had ordered the removal of murals depicting characters like Baloo from The Jungle Book and Mickey Mouse because they were deemed “too welcoming.”
Since then, it has been verified that contractors have painted over the images at the Kent asylum center, where staff initially refused to comply with the request.
The decision has been heavily criticized, with prominent Conservative donor Lord Brownlow among those imploring ministers to reverse course.
More than 60,000 individuals have signed a Change.org petition demanding that the graphic images be reinstated at the asylum processing center.
Mr. Jenrick made these remarks during a Commons debate on the House of Lords amendments to the Illegal Immigration Bill.
Following a succession of defeats in the House of Lords, the Home Office announced amendments concerning the detention of unaccompanied children.
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