Syrian NHS cleaner’s emotional plea for compassion for migrants beamed on to White Cliffs of Dover

PUBLISHED: 10:13 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:35 21 August 2020

Led By Donkeys' display projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover featuring the story of Syrian refugee Hassan Akkad.  Photograph: Led By Donkeys/PA Wire  .

Led By Donkeys' display projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover featuring the story of Syrian refugee Hassan Akkad. Photograph: Led By Donkeys/PA Wire .

A Syrian refugee has criticised the government for trying to distract the public with stories about migrants, in a message beamed on to the White Cliffs of Dover by campaigners Led By Donkeys.

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The landmark was lit up with a giant video of NHS cleaner Hassan Akkad, a Syrian refugee who crossed to Britain several years ago, who also is a refugee rights activist and previously worked as an English teacher and photographer in Damascus.

He highlighted the “terrifying and devastating” journeys that so many people are undertaking to reach the UK by boat, and blamed the Government for using the crisis as a distraction from the coronavirus pandemic.


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The giant projection is the latest stunt by Led By Donkeys, a group of activists famed for their giant billboards of politicians’ tweets.

In the video, Mr Akkad said: “Hello everyone. Apologies for taking over the cliff but I have a few words that I would love to share with you.

“My name is Hassan and five years ago I was on the other side of this Channel trying to cross here.

“These cliffs were actually visible from our makeshift camp and they represented hope.”

He said that, like many of those arriving recently, he had to put his trust in a people smuggler because safe and legal asylum routes are unavailable.

He continued: “Crossing the sea in a rubber dinghy is terrifying and devastating.

“Devastating because it makes you feel so helpless and insignificant.

“And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

He argued that Britain is not facing a refugee crisis, but that the migrant crossings are being used as a distraction by the government.

“I will say it again – they are using us to distract you from how from how badly they have managed during this pandemic,” he said.

“The past few months have proved that the people who made Britain their home didn’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and keep this country running during the worst public health crisis in modern history.

“From harvesting our produce to stacking our shelves. From delivering our takeaways to looking after our elderly and sick.

“From driving our buses to, in my case, cleaning my hospital to help the NHS.

“The only difference between you and us is luck.”

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