I was delighted to go through the weekend papers this morning and see lots of pictures of huge crowds holding up pictures of Al Bangura, the Watford midfielder facing deportation back to Sierra Leone, cheering him and supporting his plea to stay. Even papers like the Mail and the Express that typically take a very cynical view of asylum seekers are behind him.
Bangura was forced to flee Sierra Leone when he was 15 after his father was killed, and fears reprisals if he returns. Hopefully his case will promote compassion for other people who have their claims refused but who are too afraid to return, and will highlight the positive contribution refugees and asylum seekers make to our communities when they are given the chance.
In fact, barely any people who seek asylum from war-torn Sierra Leone are accepted. Out of 105 asylum applications from people from Sierra Leone last year, none were accepted as refugees, 20 were allowed Leave to Remain, 10 won on appeal and 100 were sent home.
Football can be a great unifier, and of course, it’s fun. We are hoping to work with the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group to organise a football match between refugees and MPs as part of Refugee Week next year.