On Tuesday, i broke the story that the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, had told staff at an asylum centre in Kent to paint over Disney murals, as the art gave the impression that the UK was “welcoming” to asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats.
Two days later, we confirmed that Jenrick’s request had been carried out, something Labour said was “putting Britain to shame” while a former child refugee told i the order was “an act of abject cruelty”.
Dozens of i readers have written in to express their disgust. Here is a selection of those letters.
“I am disgusted by Robert Jenrick’s order to paint over ‘murals’ at the unaccompanied children’s refugee centre. The reason given is to ensure these people would not feel ‘welcome’. Sir Nicholas Winton, the man who organised the Kindertransport, will turn in his grave. What a pitiful country we have become.”
“No-one should be surprised that a Tory minister ordered a mural to be painted over so as to remove any suggestion to cold, frightened, unaccompanied children that they had arrived, after a terrifying Channel crossing in a flimsy dinghy, at a welcoming safe haven.
“Surely it must be obvious to everyone by now that, apart from rewarding donors and cronies with honours and lucrative business contracts, that the creation of a hostile environment is the only thing that the Nasty Party is actually really good at?
“In the past the Tories have created hostile environments for single mothers, the unemployed, the disabled, the Windrush generation. Boris Johnson even managed to turn his own party into a hostile environment for colleagues such as Ken Clark, Anna Soubry and Rory Stewart, who had the nerve to disagree with his policies or lack of them.”
“Perhaps cartoons depicting the current Government can replace the ones removed from the detention centre for child asylum seekers. The Tories are nothing but a joke and make this country a laughing stock!”
“The immigration minister’s decision to order the painting over of the ‘welcoming’ mural’s cartoon characters in the centre for asylum seeking children is an example of bullying of the worst kind: if you can’t get the parents, hurt the children.”
“Does Robert Jenrick really think that removing some cartoon murals from the walls will make an iota of difference to the number of asylum seekers? I expect he’ll be looking at the children’s meals soon and proposing that anything tasting too good is replaced with gruel. What a sad, petty, mean-spirited creature he is.”
“What next? Removal of toys? Removal of children’s books? Poor quality food? What a shocking betrayal of social attitudes towards refugees in this country. The Government’s mindset is a long way behind that of the majority of British people. We have always prided ourselves on being a safe haven for refugees fleeing from traumatic situations, however they reach us. Robert Jenrick shames us all.”
“As a five-year-old evacuee from Kent in 1939, I remember the kindness of those who received us in Norfolk. These refugee children have travelled far and often in frightening circumstances, to an uncertain future. Words cannot express my contempt for Robert Jenrick and his lack of humanity towards these children. I hope the mural will soon be replaced.”
“Shame on Robert Jenrick for carrying out such a pointless, hostile act against vulnerable children. His action demeans anyone with an ounce of compassion and humanity. How depressing that ministers like him portray the public face of this country to the rest of the civilised world.”
Loughborough , Leicestershire
“These children had no say in what has happened to them and they must be totally traumatised. To take away a small gesture that might make them feel a little better is cruel and heartless.”
“Shame on you Jenrick, Braverman, Sunak, this Government, for allowing the removal of some semblance of hope from those poor unfortunate children confined in that wretched asylum centre. Land of hope and glory, mother of the free?”
“Walking home from the paper shop this morning we looked at the headline on i. Marita, my six-year-old grandchild said, ‘He [Jenrick] is a very bad man!’ That sums it all up!”
Crowborough, East Sussex
“Having taught in an immigration detention centre, your front page article fills me with dread. How, I ask myself, are the staff recruited? If the walls are not allowed to be friendly the staff certainly won’t be.”
“So, the Home Office has got its way and painted over the murals at an asylum centre in Kent as they were thought to be ‘too welcoming’. This is yet another sign of a chaotic Government without any shame who are now penalising innocent children in their quest to appeal to the electorate.”