Led By Donkeys project heartfelt message from asylum seeker onto the White Cliffs of Dover

Led By Donkeys project heartfelt message from asylum seeker onto the White Cliffs of Dover

Activist group Led By Donkeys have unveiled their latest stunt: projecting a video message from a former asylum seeker onto the White Cliffs of Dover.

Hassan Akkad, a hospital cleaner who crossed the English Channel in a dinghy five years ago, can be heard saying:

Despite the growing number of people making the crossing to seek asylum here, Britain is not facing a refugee crisis. 

Britain is, however, facing other crises, but we are being used again as a distraction from the actual crises facing this country caused by the people who are running it. They are using us to distract you from from how badly they have managed during this pandemic. 

He also reflects on the "terrifying and devastating" journey he made from Syria in 2015, and recalls seeing the White Cliffs as a symbol of "hope" from a makeshift camp in Calais.

Last week Boris Johnson announced that his government would "look at the legal framework that means when people do get here, it is very, very difficult to send them away again, even though blatantly they've come here illegally".

Johnson was reminded that it isn't illegal to seek asylum in the UK, or to cross the Channel in order to do so.

Akkad said that people smuggling is, however, enabled by the lack of legitimate options available to help people travel to the UK.

Similar to those who are arriving recently, I had to put my trust in a people smuggler because a safe and legal option to seek asylum here was and still is unavailable. 

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. 

Akkad documented his passage to the UK from Syria in the Bafta-winning documentary Exodus: Our Journey to Europe.

On top of his filmmaking and public speaking, he began working as a cleaner at Whipps Cross Hospital earlier this year to "help this nation overcome the pandemic".

Akkad was widely credited with convincing the government to U-turn on their decision to exclude low-paid workers from a scheme that allowed the families of migrant NHS staff to remain in the UK indefinitely if they were to die fighting coronavirus.

Akkad released a video in which he said he felt "stabbed in the back" by the decision: later, the scheme was expanded to include cleaners, porters and social workers as well as doctors and nurses.

It's not the first time Led By Donkeys have projected their messaged onto the White Cliffs of Dover.

Recently, they also unveiled a billboard mocking the government's attempts to handle the pandemic.

Their latest project has been hailed as "important and powerful".

Because it's worth remembering that behind every photo, video and statistic, there's a story.

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