A cricket team of young asylum seekers and refugees is to take on a team of Parliamentarians to celebrate Refugee Week.
The match, organised by Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees Sarah Teather MP and the Refugee Council, will be held on Wednesday 18 June to celebrate Refugee Week (16-22 June 2014).
The Refugee Cricket Project will play The Lords and Commons cricket team, whose President is Sir John Major. Captained by Tom Brake MP in his local constituency Carshalton and Wallington, the side will be a mix of Parliamentarians and staff from both Houses of Parliament.
The youngsters are aiming for victory, buoyed from their success against the MCC in a fixture last month.
The Refugee Cricket Project was set up by the Refugee Council and Cricket for Change to offer advice, support and a sporting outlet for young asylum seekers who arrived in the UK alone as children. The match marks the fifth anniversary of the Refugee Cricket Project.
The Project began in 2009 and has helped over 100 boys. Although it is open to all, the vast majority of the participants are teenage boys from Afghanistan. Many had never played with a proper cricket ball or pads before joining the team.
As well as offering the chance to play cricket with other young people in similar circumstances, the Refugee Cricket Project boosts the young people’s’ confidence and also helps integrate them into British life.
Three players have been successful in county trials for their age group and a significant number of the Project’s participants have been supported in playing cricket at local clubs. Last year, two of the young men were helped to get into university and another hopes to follow in their footsteps this year.
Abdul is a young cricketer originally from Afghanistan. Read about what the Refugee Cricket Project means to him >>
Refugee Council volunteer and Refugee Cricket Project coordinator Antonia Cohen said: “For the young people I work with who have experienced such a significant degree of trauma and loss, fleeing from a conflict zone to the uncertainty of a life in a strange country without their families, the benefits of playing cricket have been enormous.
“The Refugee Cricket Project provides a safe space where they can forget the challenges and hostility they often face in the rest of their lives and gives them a chance to do something that they enjoy and that they are good at. It boosts their confidence, helps them with learning English and understanding Britain better and gives them the chance to experience the sense of being seen as sportsmen rather than asylum seekers. The bonds that have been established within in the group are very strong and in some ways the Project has become a substitute for the family life the boys have had to leave behind.
“I am hugely grateful to this group of young refugees for all they have taught me about good manners, cricket and survival in the face of adversity.”
Lords and Commons team guest manager, Sarah Teather MP, added: “It’s a great privilege to be honorary manager of the parliamentary cricket team for what I’m sure will be a competitive, but friendly, match. I’m also indebted to Tom Brake for agreeing to captain the side and hope that my complete lack of knowledge about cricket isn’t too much of a hindrance to our chances of success.
“It’s great to be able to bring together parliamentarians and the young refugees that work with the Refugee Cricket Project as part of Refugee Week. It’s a rare opportunity and one which will be fun for both sides.”
Photo courtesy of Antonia Cohen