'Are You Comfortable With This?' Minister Squirms Over Decision To Paint Over Children's Mural

Victoria Atkins repeatedly refused to say she supported the move.
Victoria Atkins refused to say whether she was comfortable with the decision.
Victoria Atkins refused to say whether she was comfortable with the decision.
Sky News

A government minister has refused to back her Tory colleague’s decision to order the removal of a mural of Mickey and Minnie Mouse at an asylum detention centre.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick order the painting, and another one of Tom and Jerry, be painted over because they were too welcoming for children.

On Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News this morning, Treasury minister Victoria Atkins was repeatedly asked whether she was “comfortable” with the controversial move, but refused to do so.

Pointing to a picture of the centre, Ridge said: “If you have a look at it here - Minnie and Mickey Mouse here, Tom and Jerry there, and that was painted over, the decision taken by Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, because it was too welcoming.”

The murals at the Kent Intake Unit in Dover
The murals at the Kent Intake Unit in Dover
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Atkins insisted that children who arrive in the UK on small boats are “looked after properly”, but said the government wanted to stop them making the perilous journey in the first place.

But Ridge replied: “Just looking at this picture, I don’t believe you’re comfortable with the decision to paint over - I don’t believe it.”

The minister said: “I’m not comfortable with the idea that people would bring children across.”

The presenter hit back: “I can absolutely understand that, but that’s not the decision of the children. The decision to paint over this mural, it’s a place where kids go - they must be terrified when they go and sit on those chairs, they don’t know what’s happening and where they’re going to go.

“There was an active decision to paint over Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Are you happy with that?”

As she tried to dodge the question again, Ridge said: “Are you comfortable with this? You wouldn’t have done it, would you?”

Atkins replied: “When children come to the UK in those very frightening circumstances, we want them to be looked after well and looked after properly by local authorities.”

In a final attempt to get the minister to answer the question, Ridge said: “I think you can believe all of that and still be kind of uncomfortable about the idea that you’re part of a government that would paint over this mural.”

The minister responded: “What I care about is how those children are looked after when they come here and I’m confident that they’re given the care and the welfare that we would expect and we would want.”

The mural was installed at the Kent Intake Unit, which mainly processes children who arrive in the UK on their own unaccompanied by an adult.

The murals feature in an HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report published in February following an inspection of the facility after its opening in November.

After the i newspaper revealed the order to paint over them, Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock tweeted: “The idea that painting over murals for unaccompanied children in immigration centres will somehow stop the boats is utterly absurd. This is a sign of a chaotic government in crisis.”

The Lib Dems tweeted: “This is the worst kind of trivial nastiness – a Mickey Mouse minister taking an axe to Mickey Mouse.”


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