Refugee children sent postcards after Disney murals painted over at Manston immigration centre

 (HM Inspectorate of Prisons)
(HM Inspectorate of Prisons)

Asylum seeker children are to be sent thousands of welcoming postcards as activists fight to restore Disney cartoons painted over by the Home Office at a migrant processing centre.

Officials sparked controversy after spending £1,500 painting over child-friendly artwork such as Anna from Frozen, Mickey Mouse and Baloo the bear at Manston detention camp near Ramsgate in July.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has since claimed the cartoons were covered up because they were not “age appropriate” for teenagers, but has not clarified why welcome signs were also removed.

Nearly 10,000 postcards will be sent to the processing centre with people encouraged to sign them with a welcoming message.

Rima Amin, the Cartoons Not Cruelty campaign founder, said: “To say that the cartoons were ‘not age appropriate’ fails to recognise the 9,300 under-14s that arrived in the UK just last year. That’s why we’re sending 9,300 postcards.

“The power of a simple postcard cannot be underestimated in brightening a child’s day and conveying the message that they are seen and valued. While we continue to call for the cartoons to be restored, we understand the immediate need to ensure that no child is deprived of a warm and compassionate welcome.”

The campaign was inspired by a group of primary school children who said they were left feeling “ashamed of their country” by the mural cover-up so sent hand-drawn pictures to the young refugees being kept there.

 (HM Inspectorate of Prisons)
(HM Inspectorate of Prisons)

A petition to restore the cartoons has attracted more than 120,000 signatures.

An inspection report on the two facilities earlier this year highlighted “very young children” at Manston, where baby food, children’s toys and changing facilities were provided. It also praised the “bright, cheerful colours” of the family marquee and “plenty of toys to occupy children”.

The report by HM Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) also pointed out a lack of toys for “young children” at the Kent unit, which can cater for 34 people, and displayed a photograph of a “family holding room” with a mural of Mickey Mouse.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “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. 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.”