Staff at asylum reception centre ‘ordered to paint over welcoming pictures for children’

Mr Jenrick wanted it to be made clear the asylum centre was a ‘law enforcement environment’ and ‘not a welcome centre’, it is claimed.

Archie Mitchell
Tuesday 04 July 2023 09:46 BST
Related: Immigration minister Robert Jenrick announces changes to migration policy

The immigration minister ordered staff at an asylum reception centre to paint over pictures of cartoons and animals to ensure children did not feel welcomed, it is claimed.

Robert Jenrick allegedly told staff the pictures “must be removed” while also urging workers to take down welcome signs with colourful branding.

Mr Jenrick wanted it to be made clear the centre was a “law enforcement environment” and “not a welcome centre”, it is claimed.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said Mr Jenrick gave the order as he visited the Kent asylum intake unit earlier this year.

He told the i newspaper: “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.

“This demonstrates that the hostile environment has become so entrenched, that today we have lost sight of humanity.”

Mr Solomon told a Refugee Week event, hosted last week by the Wiener Holocaust Library, that the pictures are designed to put lone children at ease. He described meeting two Afghan boys at the centre who were “absolutely terrified” after a “horrifying journey” to the UK which involved travelling across Europe and then into the UK boarding a small boat to cross the channel.

The Home Office did not deny the claim.

It said the department does “all it can” to ensure children’s are safe and supported while trying to place them with local authorities.

Minister of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

A spokesperson added: “All children receive a welfare interview on their arrival at accommodation, which includes questions designed to identify potential indicators of trafficking or safeguarding issues.”

It came after migrant channel crossings set a new record for the month of June, pushing the total for the year so far to more than 11,000.

In the first six months of 2023, 11,434 people were detected making the journey from France, according to provisional government figures.

This includes 155 migrants arriving in three boats on Friday, taking the total for June alone to 3,824. This is the highest total for the month of June since records began five years ago, PA news agency analysis of the Home Office data shows.

The figures come almost six months after Rishi Sunak vowed to “stop the boats” and made this one of his five flagship pledges as Prime Minister.

In June last year, 3,140 migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel.

The Home Office said: “Our priority is to stop the boats and disrupt the people smugglers.

“The government has gone further by introducing legislation which will ensure that those people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”

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