UK scraps controversial bereavement decision after Syrian refugee's plea

UK backtracks on controversial bereavement plan after plea from Syrian refugee serving on NHS frontlines
2 min read
21 May, 2020
Families of hospital porters, cleaners and social care staff will now be able to remain in the UK indefinitely if their relative working in the NHS dies from Covid-19.
Hassan Akkad made an emotional plea to the UK government on social media [Getty]

The UK government has scrapped a decision that would have excluded the families of hospital porters, cleaners and social care staff from a bereavement scheme, following an emotional plea from a Syrian refugee working in a London hospital.

These health workers, many of whom are of immigrant backgrounds, have now been assured that their families will have indefinite leave to stay in the UK, if they die from the novel coronavirus.

More than 175 National Health Service [NHS] frontliners have died after being infected with the novel coronavirus.

Faced with this grim prospect, NHS worker Hassan Akkad made an emotional plea to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a video posted to social media.

"I've been really enjoying the clapping that you and your fellow ministers in the government do every week," Akkad said on the video, referring to the weekly show of respect for NHS workers.

"Today, however, I felt betrayed, stabbed in the back.

"I felt shocked to find out that you've decided, your government decided, to exclude myself and my colleagues who work as cleaners and porters and social care workers, who are all on minimum wage.

"So if I die fighting coronavirus my partner isn't allowed an indefinite leave to remain. This is your way of saying thank you to us?"

Shortly after posting the video, which has received over 4 million views, the UK government announced it was backtracking on the controversial decision.

"Every death in this crisis is a tragedy and sadly some NHS support staff and social care workers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of saving the lives of others," Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement.

"When I announced the introduction of the bereavement scheme in April, I said we would continue to work across government to look at ways to offer further support.

"Today we are extending the scheme to NHS support staff and social care workers," Patel added.

Akkad, a former English teacher, arrived in London in 2015 after fleeing his homeland of Syria, where he was jailed by Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Wanting to do his part for the UK's battle against coronavirus, Akkad recently joined the NHS to work disinfecting coronavirus wards at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London.

Akkad is also an award-winning filmaker whose contribution to the film 'Exodus: Our Journey to Europe' was recognised with a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award.

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