EU Go Local Conference: ASPIRE to sport clubs that welcome refugees
The European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission organised on 3 December 2019 in Brussels the conference ‘Go Local’, which gathered around 400 representatives mostly from towns, cities and regions to exchange on effective actions for the inclusion of migrants in our communities. Cities and regions are key actors in putting in place effective integration policies on the ground. However, many local authorities, especially small ones, have difficulties in accessing the resources available at EU level both in terms of knowledge and funding.
The conference was opened by Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, at her second day of office. She stressed out the importance for social cohesion and the need for people to feel safe and secure. A holistic approach to integration is necessary, she claimed in her speech.
“You are welcome, we want you to succeed, to be active on our labour market and in our society. But integration will always be local”, she pointed out.
We also heard some strong statements by local communities in the forefront of migration. A key success factor of integration is to create situations and contexts for interaction and ‘meeting spaces’. It is about culture, networking and a positive narrative, for which the sports sector is ideally placed of course.
In one of the 9 thematic workshops, we saw many ways in which sport can contribute to the successful integration of refugees. Local sport projects are particularly relevant in facilitating refugees' integration into their new communities.
During the workshop on sport and migration, Laurent Thieule presented the initiative ‘we welcome young refugees’ of the Kraainem Football Club. You may watch the video of 2018 #Beinclusive EU Sport Awards winner ‘Sport and Refugees’ presented by Volker Rehm. Carine Nkoue presented the work of the UEFA Foundation for Children and Piara Powar presented the FARE network.
The ENGSO-led Erasmus+ project, ASPIRE (Activity, Sport and Play for the Inclusion of Refugees in Europe) was presented by Jord Vandenhoudt, Policy Officer at the Flemish Sport Agency, which was one of the project partners. Jord stressed e.g. the importance of psychosocial support, based on the principles of Dr Stevan Hobfoll and gave some key messages, like the cross-sectoral approach between e.g. the sports, youth, social, health and refugee organisations that needs to be facilitated, and which is crucial at local level.
Jord also introduced ENGSO’s new SPIRIT project (Sport & Psycho-social Initiative for Inclusive Training), an Erasmus+ Sport project that will be running from January 2020 until December 2022. The project aims at developing a framework for humane, inclusive and empowering coaching that nurtures good mental health, which is especially relevant for refugees who faced trauma. To conclude Jord gave a good practice example of the Belgian social organisation Rising You, which uses the sport of climbing for the integration of refugees into jobs at height.