A giant puppet depicting a 10-year-old Syrian refugee has embarked on a tour of England, visiting iconic destinations to take part in World Refugee Week.
Baby Amal, designed to highlight the plight of refugee children, became an international symbol of human rights after traveling from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester last July.
On Sunday, the 3.5m puppet began his New Steps New Friends tour, visiting 10 towns and cities across England to share his resilient and hopeful message: ‘Don’t forget us.
Artistic director Amir Nazir told the PA news agency: “The whole project stems from the idea that refugees are seen as a problem, when in reality they are not, they are potential.
“By walking with Amal through towns and communities, creating a great artistic spectacle and creating great moments where the community can come together and think about themselves and how they receive others, it proves that refugees do not should not be seen as a burden.
“Awareness of the plight of refugees is always crucial.
Beginning her tour in Manchester, Amal will visit Bradford, Leeds and travel to the docks of Liverpool, as well as meeting the communities of Birmingham, Cheltenham and the historic old town and port of Bristol.
She will return to the Southbank Center in London and visit Stonehenge before ending her journey at Folkestone Beach in Kent – where she first arrived as a refugee a year ago.
Mr Nazir said: “For me it was really important that she returned to Folkestone beach which made her feel so wonderful. The community was amazing in their welcome and warmth on the day we arrived in the UK.
“I felt it was important that she end there as a moment where she stands with the sea and says, ‘I’m starting a new chapter in my life.
“It was very important for us to go to different places, to try to do a different route for her to meet different parts of the country.”
In May, Amal landed in Poland, bringing relief packages to Ukrainian refugee children and their families.
Mr. Nazir said: “We have just returned from Ukraine and the way the world treats Ukrainian refugees is heartwarming.
“Finally the world has stood up and shown that when you want you can come together, you can accommodate large numbers of people, economies don’t collapse, the world doesn’t stop, the world goes on. to rotate on its own axis.
“It proves that if we want we can and I encourage us to want for everyone and not just certain types of people.”
Amal’s week-long march to England comes as lawyers try to block government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Speaking of the Little Amal project in relation to the deportation flights, Mr Nazir said: “We have hit another moral low with something like the flights to Rwanda, but without getting polemical or political, this project is a question awareness.
“It’s about telling the story of a child, giving very high visibility to hundreds of thousands of children like her who walk on Earth lost, unloved and without care.
“We want to touch hearts, because it’s more important than politics and that’s why it works.”
Last summer, Little Amal traveled nearly 5,000 miles across Turkey and Europe “in search of her mother” before settling in Manchester.
Mr Nazir added: “When we took on this crazy project of walking from the Syrian border to Manchester, people asked me, ‘Do you think this will make a difference?’
“My answer is the same: if we change a person, it’s worth four and a half months of walking.
“We create art, we don’t create measurable impact, but we know that as we walked, entire cities came to welcome it; entire towns were moved by his story.
“A lot of people from the refugee community came to say it was a healing moment for them because their story was being celebrated.
“I know that we have changed some hearts, because we have met them.
“I decided to tell the story of a young girl lost in this world in search of her mother, going through adventures, trials and moments of great beauty and warmth day after day. “