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12 Dec

YCF continues to open arms to people seeking asylum

Yorkshire Cricket Foundation – the charity arm of Yorkshire County Cricket Club – has continued to partner with local organisations in the region to welcome people seeking asylum to Headingley.

The latest support provided by YCF saw 15 people, who are currently seeking asylum, from countries including Afghanistan, Cameroon, Chad, Iran, Kurdistan and Sudan, who are staying at a hotel in Leeds, take part in a special event last week at Headingley Stadium.

Read more: Afghanistan refugees given chance to play at Headingley

The support day included a tour of Headingley Stadium, led by YCF tour guide Mel Reuben, the opportunity to take part in fun cricket activities and food provided by the charity.

Here at the Foundation, we are committed to making a difference and do our bit in helping support those seeking asylum. – Sohail Raz, Diverse Communities Manager, Yorkshire Cricket Foundation

Denis, a professional weightlifter from Cameroon, who is currently seeking asylum, said: “I really enjoyed it. It’s wonderful to be able to come out of the hotel – it helps me with my mental health and helps to be able to forget some things that I find difficult.

“Coming here has been a real help.”

Thierry, from Cameroon, who is also seeking asylum, added: “It’s the first time I have ever played cricket and I have really enjoyed it.

“I will try to learn, it’s a very nice game. The stadium was very nice and all the staff . I think if there was the opportunity to join a team in the future I would be interested.”

VIDEO: Support event at Headingley Cricket Ground

For families and individuals seeking asylum they are often housed in temporary hotel accommodation before being dispersed into Home Office housing around the UK.

Currently Denis and Thierry are two of 120 men staying at a hotel in Leeds with some having been in the hotel for over a year.

People seeking asylum in the UK are not legally allowed to work or claim benefits such as Universal Credit. This means that families and individuals staying in hotels are entirely dependent on the food handed out by the accommodation provider and the £8 a week allowance.

This £8 has to cover any additional expenses, from clothes to toiletries, as well as travel costs.

As part of the support day people were able to take part in cricket activities in the East Stand at Headingley Cricket Ground.

Denis, who previously won the African Champions in the 102kg category and finished fourth in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in the 96kg category, said being able to take part in the YCF support day offered “relief” from what currently is a very “difficult period” in his life.

Denis said: “I really enjoyed having the chance to try a new sport because I have never seen cricket or experienced cricket before. I’m a weightlifter.

“The real problem for me at the moment is isolation – even though we are with a group of people at the hotel.

“I would very much like to do more training because being an athlete I need to keep up a certain level of fitness and it is extremely difficult because I have a very small amount – it only pays for really one outing per week and for an athlete you need to be training every day for a couple of hours – that is a big problem.

“I was a professional sportsman so I would either be travelling to events, involved in events or training – obviously this kind of life is exactly the opposite.”

A report published by the Refugee Council in July 2021 found that the average waiting time for an initial decision on an asylum case is likely to be between one and three years.

Denis said for the future his “dream” would be to continue in sport in “some way or other” but at the moment that vision seems “almost impossible”.

He added: “I guess that’s the problem for a lot of people who have got skills.

“There are people from all walks of life that have incredible skills but it’s impossible for them to use them because they are in a waiting situation which is really hard.”

The support day at Headingley for people seeking asylum was in partnership with Our Lady of Kirkstall Friends of Migrants group, and Horsforth Town of Sanctuary, who are providing help and aid to refugees in Leeds through measures including donations, bikes, bike accessories, phones, a conversation group, outings, volunteering opportunities and friendship.

Rose McCarthy, refugee support worker for Horsforth Chaplaincy project and Chair of Our Lady of Kirkstall Friends of Migrants group, said the aim of the organisation is to make Horsforth a Town that is a town that is proud to welcome and include people seeking sanctuary in its community.

Rose said: “As a support group we are coming in with the attitude – how amazing would it be if people were welcomed, people smiled at them and people made efforts to help people be included.

“I believe that all lives are enriched if we get to know people who are seeking sanctuary – they have lots of talents and skills to share with us and if we enable them to use those then we all benefit.”

Rose added: “It’s been a brilliant opportunity to come to Headingley for these young men. Days like today help mix people with local people so that we can break down barriers and that we can see people as people and not as labels .

“Many of the young men have never played cricket before and initially there were a number of barriers to overcome but when they started playing they soon worked out what they had to do and seeing the smiles on all their faces all day has been magical.”

The support day at Headingley for people seeking asylum was in partnership with Our Lady of Kirkstall Friends of Migrants group, and Horsforth Town of Sanctuary.

Pete Lambert, a volunteer for the Friends of Migrants group, who acted as an interpreter on the day, added: “What a wonderful day… it has been very exciting to come to Headingley and be part of this introduction for the asylum seekers.

“Each and everyone of them has appreciate being able to come out and have some fun and activity. I think it’s a fantastic thing that the Foundation is doing and I hope more organisations in the region can also support in some way.”

The event is part of continued support being offered by YCF, alongside local organisations in the region, to support those seeking asylum by providing opportunity to play cricket, while helping them integrate into society and socialise.

Since late last year the Foundation has hosted a number of cricket sessions and events across Yorkshire for people that have had to leave their county, including in Scarborough and Leeds.

Sohail Raz, the Diverse Communities Manager for YCF, said: “Here at the Foundation, we are committed to making a difference and do our bit in helping support those seeking asylum and refugees.

“Outlets like cricket sessions are vital because they allow people to take a break from the challenges they are facing so they can do something fun and enjoyable .”

How to support people seeking asylum

The City of Sanctuary is a building a movement of welcome throughout the UK.

For more information go to cityofsanctuary.org and if you would like to get involved in Leeds contact:

Email: Rose@horsforth chaplaincy.org

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