Fawad Ahmed – Asylum Seeker turned Australian Cricketer

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Marghuz is a village in the district of Swabi, which falls in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan’s North Western province, bordering Afghanistan. Located somewhere in between the provincial capital of Peshawar, and the Federal capital of Islamabad, Marghuz provides little financial opportunity, and social mobility. Many locals travel to large urban cities for education and employment opportunities, remitting money back to their villages.

Fawad Ahmed was an exception to that norm. As a right arm leg spinner, he first played for the district of Swabi in local competitions, before playing first class cricket within his province. Regarded as young talent which needed to be harnessed, he continued to grow through the ranks playing first-class cricket (the level down from playing for the national team), and catching the eyes of the selectors for call up.

It was his passion off the cricket pitch however, which is what wasn’t sitting well with some people in his community. Post 9/11, there had been a large influx of NGOs, who had started to work more prominently in Pakistan, on issues such as education, water and sanitation, and access to healthcare. Even though they were commissioned largely as a method to stem regional unrest, they did provide greater access to social services, which Fawad was very passionate about facilitating for his community. This however, didn’t sit well with some of the local community members, who saw this as a foreign intervention, and one with strings attached. Fawad was seen as facilitating this, and after more soft methods, he started receiving threats, which compromised his safety, and that of this family.

One of Fawad’s friend managed to help him gain a short-stay visa for Australia. He arrived to play for Yoogali in the state of New South Wales late in season 2009-10. Ahmed soon applied for refugee status and, while the claim was considered, moved to Melbourne later in 2010 to join suburban side Hoppers Crossing. Fawad’s initial claim for asylum failed, and while the refugee review tribunal was reviewing his appeal, Fawad started playing for the University of Melbourne, where he revealed his precarious position to club president Derek Bennett. Bennett took up his case with head of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, who strengthened and expedited his claim for permanent residency. Fawad was eventually granted permanent residency, and then consequentially citizenship, and has represented Australia on multiple occasions, making him one of the migrant community’s success stories.     

Fawad Ahmed’s case shows that TCKs can adapt to new cultures at short notice, and in adverse circumstances. Not only has adapted to the Australian culture, but has made it richer through the experiences he can share, on and off the cricket field.

How do you feel that countries can facilitate refugees adapting to their chosen country, and adding the richness of thought and experience that they bring?

Learn more:

Fawad Ahmed highlights how he balances his faith and his commitment to cricket, and Australia.

Fawad’s journey is narrated from asylum seeker to Australian cricketer.

This piece highlights Fawad Ahmed’s success on the cricket pitch.

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