UNHCR Malaysia, AFC kick off pact to support refugees through football

AFC  © Asian Football Confederation (AFC)

Kuala Lumpur, 21 June 2017 - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) kicked off a new partnership this week to support the social development of refugee communities in Malaysia through football.

The Agreement was signed at the Asian Football Confederation House here this week in conjunction with World Refugee Day.

“The AFC is delighted to work with UNHCR to have a real, positive impact on lives across Asia,” said Dato’ Windsor John, AFC General Secretary. “Football is a powerful tool for social development and it is our responsibility to spread the joy of the beautiful game as wide as possible.

AFC signed an international agreement with UNHCR last December, and aims to undertake effective social responsibility campaigns and promote the game of football and its unifying educational, cultural and humanitarian values.

Cooperation between the two organisations in enhancing social development for refugees through football will take place under the auspices of AFC’s newly launched Dream Asia Foundation. The first joint pilot project under the Agreement will support Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.

“The plight of displaced people is distressing and affects the whole continent. Working with established humanitarian organisations like the UNHCR, and with our new AFC Dream Asia Foundation, I am sure we will see our efforts bear fruit, to the benefit of refugees across Asia,” said John.

In Malaysia, there are some 150,000 refugees registered with UNHCR, having been forced to flee their countries due to armed conflict and human rights abuses. The majority of them are from Myanmar.

“For refugees, the displacement they face means losing access to many fundamental human rights, including access to livelihoods and education, and for children, access to play,” said Richard Towle, UNHCR Representative. “Refugees in Malaysia have no legal status, and as a result of this, they are extremely socially disadvantaged, including not having access to proper education or work.”

The partnership between AFC and UNHCR aims to provide refugees with opportunities for self-reliance, empowerment, education, and social inclusion through the medium of sports-related activities.

“We see sports and sporting events as an entry point to developing programmes for refugees in many areas, including health, physical well-being and hygiene, women’s and girls’ rights, education, and opportunities for livelihoods,” said Towle.

“Sporting events also have the ability to unite people - no matter their origin, religious belief, or immigration status. We have seen how sports can break down barriers between refugee and non-refugee children, and foster acceptance and understanding among these communities.”

“UNHCR is pleased and excited to enter into this partnership with AFC in Malaysia, an international football organisation with integrity and credibility to explore how we can utilise sports for the social development of refugees,” said Towle.