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Serbians and Oxfam stump up support for cricket among refugees and migrants

UK News | Published:

It is hoped playing cricket will give the men mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan a little taste of home.

A game of cricket is played by migrants at the Obrenovac camp in Serbia (Tom White/PA)

As thousands of refugees and migrants continue to arrive on the shores of Europe, one Balkan country is starting to embrace cricket to try to give them a little taste of home.

It is estimated that Serbia now hosts almost 5,000 asylum seekers, who have arrived from the Middle East and Africa in the hope of starting a new life.

But with many of the surrounding borders now shut, they are stuck in overcrowded camps or living rough on the streets of Belgrade.

In one of these camps, a former army base called Obrenovac, Oxfam and the Serbian Cricket Federation have teamed up to help the nearly 1,000 men play a sport they love.

“We began playing sport in the camp in May and they started playing cricket matches with some bats and some cement posts they found in the woods.

“So we started to look how they could play in a more formal manner and we found the Serbian cricket association had done it elsewhere so we invited them to come and work in Obrenovac.”

Migrant crisis
A game of cricket is played by migrants at the Obrenovac camp in Serbia (Tom White/PA)

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He said: “Life here is really hard, I have now been here for one year. I have tried many times to cross the border but have not succeeded.

“I just love cricket and want to play it, I don’t have a passport so can’t play for a Serbian cricket team so I want to go back to England. I really liked the guys there, I miss playing with them as they are good people.”

Migrant crisis
Janat, 23, from Pakti province in Afghanistan at the Obrenovac camp (Tom White/PA)

This often costs around 5,000 euro and many people have attempted to make the journey dozens of times.

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Migrant crisis
BelgrAid charity volunteer Jane, 23, from Denmark, serves food in the canteen in Obrenovac camp (Tom White/PA)

“I think it helps them feel relaxed and a bit like home, it’s a big part of Afghani and Pakistani culture and we want to make it part of Serbian culture.

“They are stuck here due to political and other reasons so why not help them while they are here to enjoy themselves and we would be very happy if some of them stay and bring additional quality to Serbian cricket.”

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