Rohingya Star Lights up Lords in Junior Cricket Final
Jasmin Akter, an 18-year-old Rohingya who arrived in the UK as a refugee some years ago, loves a challenge.
Jasmin Akter’s family was displaced from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and then resettled in the UK. Since arriving, she has excelled at cricket, and captained her country in a recent tournament
Last week, Jasmin, who lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire, captained the England team in the final of the Street Child World Cup, and took the team within a few runs of winning.
Yet Jasmin has had to overcome personal, as well as sporting, challenges. Her father died shortly before she was born; and she was raised in a refugee camp in Bangladesh by a single mother. “As you can imagine being a single parent, raising five children in a camp, it must have been hard,” she said.
As members of Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya minority, her family had faced mounting persecution in Myanmar. Going back decades, outbreaks of violence and laws stripped the Rohingya of their rights and deprived them of citizenship, forcing families like Jasmin’s to flee across the border with Bangladesh. The most recent crisis, which saw more than 700,000 Rohingya escape a crackdown in the months after August 2017, was just the latest and largest movement of refugees out of the country.
Ten years ago, when Jasmin was 8, her family was resettled to the UK under the Gateway Resettlement programme. Run by the Home Office with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the programme has resettled around 750 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees to the UK every year since its inception in 2004.
Even after starting anew in England, the challenges continued for Jasmin. When she was 13 her mother was seriously injured in a car accident – leaving Jasmin as her primary carer.
It was during those difficult years that the foundations for her love of cricket were laid: “I was in a deep depression after mum’s car accident, I used to isolate myself and never really talk to anyone at school or at home,” she told UNHCR. “One day a friend took me to an after school club, where one of the coaches suggested I join the cricket team. Within just a few months, I’d been made captain and was heading for trials for the Yorkshire team.”
Young Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh often use cricket to fight against boredom. Their love of the game is shared by their hosts.
And Jasmin said that cricket also offered her a release when she was growing up in the UK; and she is talented with both bat and ball. “When I first started playing at school there was some prejudice and criticism about me playing cricket as a girl,” she added. “But I’m very proud that the Rohingya community are supporting me and encouraging me on.”
Jasmin was chosen as captain of the England team in the Street Child World Cup through Centrepoint, an NGO working against youth homelessness in the UK. Staff from the charity met Jasmin at a local community centre in Bradford, where she was coaching young children, and asked her to join the team.
Ten teams from across the world travelled to the UK to take part in the World Cup, organised by Street Child United, with the finals played at Lords, the home of cricket, in Central London. Taking place just before the Cricket World Cup in England this summer, this was the first Cricket World Cup competition organised for street-connected children.
Street Child United is a UK charity using the power of sport, specifically international sports events, to change the negative perceptions and treatment of street-connected children everywhere. Our global HQ is in London.
England's final against India South closed in dramatic fashion. A 6 from India South in the final over taking the team to victory.
As well as offering children a unique opportunity to represent their countries, the competition also gave them a platform from which to challenge the stigma and negative treatment they often face, and to make their voices heard to policy makers back home.
England’s final against India South closed in dramatic fashion. It was a 6 from India South in the final over that took India South to 48 for 1, beating England’s 43.
Back home, with the competition over, Jasmin is studying business at Bradford College with the aim of a degree in accountancy at university afterwards.
But it is sport that is the real passion in her life, and where she sees her future. “Sport is something that I feel I’m born to do. It’s something that I’m really confident in and shows who I am.”