Berlin hosts first national congress on refugees and sport15 October 2014

Refugees, representatives oftheGermanfootball,players,clubsandpoliticians gatheredinBerlin,on10October,todiscusstheopportunitiesfootballcanprovidefortheinclusionofrefugees,asylumseekersandmarginalisedcommunities.

In the Abgeordnetenhaus, the state parliament of Berlin, more than 200 participants debated how to afford better and easier access to grassroots clubs for the over 18,000 refugees, who live in the German capital.

In her welcoming speech, Green party politician and vice president of the German parliament Bundestag, Claudia Roth, reported from a refugee camp for Yazidis following a recent trip to the Turkish-Syrian border.

Roth pointed out that in the refugee camp boys played football, and that there the sport offered them “a bit of normality in these dire situations.”

The German politician stressed that providing access to sport and culture, in addition to the basic services, should be a core principle of countries hosting refugees, and that this should be granted equally for girls and boys, women and men.

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Improve cooperation between clubs and refugee camps
“We hope to improve the network between social initiatives working with refugees and also to draw the attention of football clubs and governing bodies to the topic” said Carolin Gaffron, chairwoman of ChoG, that currently trains about 150 refugees.

During the conference, the testimonies of refugees and the contributions of NGOs, who use football as a toll for inclusion, underlined the importance of sport in the social life of refugees, who in the most cases don’t have a German work permit and to whom football is the only way to break out of the drab life in the camp.

The event sought to generate ideas and solutions on how to approach local refugees and get in contact with football camps to work with them.

Carolin Gaffron also stressed that clubs often show interest in offering training sessions but lack expertise and support to reach out the refugees in the right way.

A closer cooperation between the refugee aid sector and football clubs would help address those issues.

Obstacles
At the event, participants, unanimously, agreed that bureaucracy and red tape adds to the obstacles that human rights activists and clubs face when trying to include refugees in the sport.

Recent cases have shown how football regulations and the German asylum policy have made sporting activities less accessible to refugees.

Earlier this year, the Senegalese American football player Madiama Diop was forbidden to travel to away games with his club Würzburg Panthers because of the residence obligation refugees have to abide by. Last month a Syrian boy, who arrived as an unaccompanied refugee in Germany, was denied his right to play in the local football club because his parents’ signature for his player pass was missing.

The event was organised by the German NGO Champions ohne Grenzen (ChoG), who offer football training for refugees in the country’s capital and who have recently launched a football project for refugee women, as part of the Football People weeks.

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