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Little Amal takes her first steps in Folkestone as first leg of the UK tour

The 3.5-metre-high puppet Little Amal took her first steps on British soil yesterday when she walked through the Harbour Arm Station in the town of Folkestone on the southeast coast of England

Greeted by a choir singing Hayati, a song written by young people from Kent Refugee Action Network and the musician Anil Sebastian, kids held up signs that read "Refugees Welcome" and spectators spilled across the renovated platform.

The marionette Amal depicts a young girl and is controlled by three puppeteers, one inside her ribcage and another two working her arms. In total, she has an entourage of 25 people who take turns to bring her to life as she walks through cities along her journey.

Last night, Amal's hair streamed behind her, and her giant red boots walked towards the crowd, bending to receive a gift from one of the audience members and holding out her hands to greet British actor Jude Law.

When her journey is completed in the northern city of Manchester, Amal will have walked 8,000 miles from the Syrian border city of Gaziantep and across Europe to raise awareness of the young Syrians who make terrifying journeys to escape the war at home, often unaccompanied and in search of their mothers.

READ: Giant refugee puppet head to EU parliament

Amal, which means hope in Arabic, has been blessed by Pope Francis in Rome and negotiated border controls amid the pandemic. Yesterday, Folkestone's Mayor Michelle Keutenius was waiting amidst the crowds to greet her.

But in Greece, far-right protesters threw stones at her whilst demonstrations in Greece meant she had to take a detour. In Calais, the French departure city from where people cross the Channel, the mayor objected to her arrival.

Little Amal first appeared in the Good Chance Theatre's play the Jungle inside the Calais camp in 2016, the height of the refugee crisis.

Thousands of people in search of safety have crossed the water which separates France and England on small boats, many arriving into Folkestone. Charities have called for safe passage to be opened to them, whilst the government has been pushing for legislation which will mean people who arrive "illegally" will find it harder to gain asylum.

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