Football and campaigners commemorate the victims of Lampedusa03 October 2014

Over300balloonswerereleasedintotheskiesofRomeon3OctoberbycampaignersandyoungfootballersinremembranceofthevictimsoftheLampedusaboatdisasterayearago,inwhich368migrantstravellingtoEuropefromAfricaweredrownedoffthecoastofItaly.

This was the first of a series of initiatives that were looking to raise awareness of the problems migrants from many parts of the world endure to enter Europe and the reality they face after arriving.

A photo exhibition on the Lampedusa disaster, a mini-concert, a theatre play and readings of excerpts of a book, which tells the story of three refugee women in an immigration centre, commemorated the victims of the boat disaster and other recent incidents.

Reports estimate that since the beginning of the year 1,800 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean sea while trying to reach Europe. Half of them refugees from Syria and Eritrea seeking to flee conflicts in their native countries.

The action was organised by the Italian Fare members Liberi Nantes, the first football team of refugees in Italy, UISP nazionale and with the support of partners from other migrants groups and the UNHCR.

Daniela Conti from UISP said, “We organise this event because we as equality campaigners want to join football to stand up against this tragedy and give possibility to everybody to play football: migration is a right, sport is a right and we have to find new policies to welcome migrants, not to creating borders and barriers.”

Fare was represent by ambassador Paul Elliot who played in Italy for Serie A clubs Bari and Pisa.

La Carta di Lampedusa
In Portugal, the Football People film festival MICAR (17-19 October), which will focus on immigration and football’s power to foster inclusion, will raise awareness of the tragedy through films and debates on the topic.

The festival, organised by the anti-racism group SOS Racismo, will also highlight the La Carta di Lampedusa, an international grassroots pact signed by international organisations, including the Portuguese group, that proposes new views to the current migration policies in Europe.

‘The world heard and children in Lampedusa saw’
Earlier in September, a letter addressed to the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) called on the country’s football body to allow youngsters in Lampedusa to enroll and play in the island’s youth league after a lengthy bureaucratic process delayed the only football pitch in Lampedusa to be cleared.

The letter, sent by the vice-president of the local club Gsd Lampedusa, spoken about football’s power to help youngsters in the island to unite and grow in a healthy environment.

The letter read: “Almost a year after the tragedy that took place in our island of Lampedusa, in which the world’s attention turned to the tragic night of 3 October, where men, women and children died, and having in mind the International Day for Children’s Rights (20 November), we call for the need to take action. For a child it is hard to forget, but this case is not about forgetting, it is about continuing”.

Football for inclusion
In Italy, several football teams have been created to work on the theme of the inclusion of immigrants and refugees who risk their lives to cross the sea searching for a better life, for them and their families.

The most recent example is the Palermo team S. Curato d’Ars, constituted of 24 immigrants, mostly from Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali and Benin, that seeks to transform a hobby into a way of bringing people together, tackling social exclusion and using the game to overcome and escape from memories of suffer and struggle.

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