Couple days ago, the Austrian Ministry of Defense and Sport assisted Council of Europe as a host for organization of the EPAS Annual Conference. It is timely and needed gathering of various stakeholders addressing what is seems to be a topic of a great importance for the future of Europe
At the begging, there was an opportunity to listen to the key stakeholders from Slovenia, Albania and host Austria on the one hand and the CoE and the UNHCR on the other hand. Although mentioned participants from the governmental side stressed importance of sport for the integration process of the migrants underlining ad hoc project activities in that respect, intergovernmental representatives noted needs for strong governmental commitment within countries of the European region pointing out 3 level phases of integration process and obstacles to integrate without possibility to work, not able to reunite with family and not knowing duration of stay:
- Social/cultural (recent phenomenon cross large cultural differences).
At the EU level, there is consensus on linking sport with education (youth and health) with orientation of sport to crosscut various strategies in order to accelerate integration process along with needed civic education/skills building that will reflect not only within EU members, but activities will spill over to neighboring (and candidate) countries.
From the IOC/Olympic Solidarity is noted timely address issue while announcing Refugee Olympic Team– it is plan to keep promoting those athletes to stay into sport through the hosting NOCs. IOC formed special fund, dedicated for refugee issues. At the national level, there are some interesting initiatives from the NOC Austria and the NOC Germany with attempt of strengthening ties between newly arrived and hosting citizens focusing on sport participation. Along with that, there has been offered numerous project initiatives from the other nongovernmental stakeholders on national level, focusing on social potential of sport including not only participation but rather focusing on diversity and fighting existing prejudices
It could be concluded that going beyond form prejudices (raise of right wing, racist and neo-Nazis) and bearing in mind unclear competences and jurisdiction among stakeholders obstacles for adequate integration process are seen twofold: institutional– missing cross institutional cooperation from local-national (vertical); administrative- asylum process, providing insurance, diploma recognition, employability (horizontal)
Mr Frossard summarized 2 day event trying to emphasize areas for possible intervention:
- Share knowledge/experience: index, webpages, and handbook;
- Advocacy on potential of sport to enhance visibility of sport to promote outside of sport family- to convince rest of society;
- Support and fund project in sustainable matter- needed coordination on both vertical and horizontal level;
- Mobilize society through direct volunteering- how to raise awareness within sport for all organizations;
- Developing specific know-how on newly arrived migrants (e.g. Pestalozzi program to share knowledge).
Personal remark: these and similar gatherings should reflect ones that are the focus of interest- in that respect we lack to hear from the “first hand” experiences from those who are actually part of the integration process. Their voices needs to be heard! Secondly, very often integration could be interpreted as assimilation process. Taking into account form prejudices and examples of Roma integration process, it could be argued that it is rather crisis of values then migrants crisis. Finally, sport has a limits and could serve only as a part of the mosaic.