The beauty of football is that it has the ability to unite people and communities all around the world and this sense of camaraderie extends to Hong Kong. The annual “Home and Away” Charity Football tournament 2016 is more than just a sports event; it is a tournament of unity and hope.
Organised by the Vine Community Services Ltd (VCSL), it seeks to highlight and empower some of the most marginalised people in Hong Kong – refugees, as well as build bridges to the widercommunity. The tournament has grown in stature and participation with the underlying goals that sport is a level playing field and everyone has the right to partake in it.
For more on the background of the tournament, the plight of refugees in Hong Kong and the work that the Vine Community Services Ltd (VCSL) does to alleviate their plight, please read:
Tom Franz, CEO of Vine Community Services Ltd (VCSL) kindly took time to share more about the “Home and Away” tournament and the work that VCSL does in Hong Kong.
Globally, refugees have been in the media constantly and have become a global talking point. Do you think this helps highlight their plight in a positive or negative sense?
Globally, I think it highlights them in a generally positive sense. Locally, we see many issues popping up, and we can see that in the recent US elections and with Brexit. But generally, I think the global focus shines a light on what this growing population is facing and can help show what they are facing in terms of what they are fleeing and what sort of difficulties that have when they arrive on other countries soil.
Hong Kong is quite a multicultural society – do you think enough is done to help refugees in this city?
Hong Kong is a multi-cultural city, and this has been a real strength in the past. We go to great lengths to say that we are Asia’s World City. If you look historically, almost everyone here is only a few generations away from either being economic migrants or refugees themselves. However, we have forgotten that our grandparents risked their lives to reach this city, and we have taken up a fairly exclusionary policy towards the newer arrivals. Some of this is cultural misunderstandings, but I feel much of it can be attributed to unfounded fears. People come here looking for safety or for a better future. They don’t come here to cause trouble. Our policies have been set up to scare others from coming, but these policies are largely unknown in the countries of origin, and are therefore completely ineffective.
Many refugees are stuck in limbo in Hong Kong. How can a normal day play out for them?
You have to think of yourself in their shoes. They have no money, are not allowed to participate in much that society has to offer, and have little that can help them integrate into society. Day after day, they wake up with nothing to look forward to or be involved in. Many face a daily sense of hopelessness. A human needs some sort of purpose. If we could develop a system in which they could contribute and fill some sort of need, it would make a world of difference.
How can people help refugees in Hong Kong if they wish too?
Spreading awareness is a big issue. Organisations like ours need finances, so there is always donations, but if we understood their situation and worked to provide platforms from which refugees could assimilate and contribute that would make a huge difference.
Which teams are taking part in this year’s tournament and does football truly unite all?
We have several corporations, although not as many as we have had in past years. There is a team from the Vine church, and several refugee teams. We are all equal on the pitch, so your economic status, your immigration status, your ethnicity or nation of origin, all of that falls to the background and you can compete and interact from a place of equality. Seeing the humanity of those caught up in this world-wide phenomenon is essential to erase the “us against them” and the “they are all criminals” type of speech and policies.
What changes would you and your organisation like to see in Hong Kong over the next few years to alleviate the plight of refugees?
We would like to see a change in the type of language used, both in media, in the public discourse, and by certain politicians and political bodies. The negative language does not help. The USM, which is the mechanism in place to decide who is a “real” refugee, needs to be overhauled. It needs a better initial screening process so that not just anyone is excepted into it. This allows many who are here to exploit the system to stay without any real need. The system has to be sped up. Currently, there is an average of 7 years to this process. Germany processed 600,000 people in 5 months. We have 11,000, and many here for years. And we need to have realistic approval levels. Globally, the averages are between 30 and 40% of those seeking refugee status being accepted. Hong Kong’s acceptance rate is less than 1%. This is not because of the quality of claims, but our system is set up to reject claimants, not to protect those seeking asylum.
Location: YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College
Date: Sat, 26 Nov 2016 (8:30am – 6pm)
Tournament Format: 7 vs. 7 (Round Robin and Knockout Stage)
“Home & Away” is a football term that refers to whether a team is playing at ‘home’ in their own venue, or away in someone else’s. We hope this Tournament will raise awareness and funds for the refuges and asylum-seekers living in Hong Kong. The tournament brings across a message that the refugees are away from their home and separated from their families, but also instills hope that our city is one that cares – vcsl.org
Photos Source: https://www.facebook.com/pg/homeandawayfootball/photos/
Photos by Gloria So and Steps