Tips and tricks on working with refugees.

In the last few years, many European countries have welcomed refugees in their communities, despite disagreements and hostile political environment. Many organisations, sports clubs and even individuals are working towards positive integration and involvement of refugees into society as at the end of the day, they are human beings, just like you and me. Based on the experiences of sports clubs in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Italy, we have gathered Tips and tricks for you as individual, your organisation or sport club on how to start working with refugees, what are the aspects you should consider and think about.

The journey of integration through sport begins with understanding that refugees are human beings, persons and as such deserve and need basic respect. Curiosity and interest should drive you to learn more about their personalities and culture, bearing in mind that the story of their journey is most probably very negative, full of stressful situations and scenes we probably can’t even imagine going through. As the political and social circumstances on this topic are unpredictable and can change at any time, having strong willpower and being resilient will help you to continue path towards positive and lasting change.

  1. Introduction

  2. Engagement

  3. Considerations

  4. Partnerships

  5. Citizenship

  6. Training

  7. Communication

  • Get informed about the rules and procedures in your country

    Rules, procedures and definitions in each country might differ one from another, depending on how long they are in the country, from which country they’re coming from, etc. Get familiar with what are the rules in your country and community and also rules of the sport system.

    Sport is not magic box

    Sport is not magic box that would solve all the problems, but it can have a positive effect on the personal growth and development of individuals. Children and youth learn ethics, integrity, respect, cooperation, loyalty and commitment by participating. They learn how to deal with victory and loss, set goals for themselves, work hard and be considerate, work in groups and respect other people’s opinions and follow rules. Participation in sports emphasizes important values such as team spirit, unity, tolerance and fair play. Also, participation increases the feeling of belonging and participating and in that way sports can play an important part in activating the participation of immigrants in the community.

    Sport should do sport

    Refugees are bringing their past and stories of journey with, meaning there is high possibility for post-traumatic stress disorders. They might have a housing, administrative or health issues, that need to be addressed by professionals. Be sure to focus on your main activity (play, sport/physical activity) but be able to signpost and refer them to fitting institution or professional that can help them with other challenges. Don’t just provide your service for the sake of doing something good, but rather doing it professionally.

    Sometimes things just don’t work out

    Despite all the efforts you and your organisation or sport club made, sometimes for some people things just don’t work out, either because of external or internal factors. Its ok and you can’t do everything and help everyone. Be happy and proud on making small but successful steps and changes on personal levels of refugees rather than worry about challenges along the way.

  • Get the green light from your club to start working with refugees

    Talking to your club or association about getting involved in work with refugees is of crucial importance, as the club members themselves as well as the manager should support the idea. Clarify with everyone from the start what can be done, how many resources there are available, what can be offered, who can commit to it, and if there are any special rules that need to be introduced.

    Initiate contact with organisations working with refugees

    Once you get the green light from your club, it’s time to take a step forward and approach refugees. The refugees won’t come forward themselves, and as a result probably won’t find information about your activities, so it’s up to you to invite and speak to them. Depending on their situation/stage (newly arrived/living already few years), you might need to go through organisations and institutions that are working with refugees. Check who is in charge and what the specific rules are (especially in the case of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children).

    Start with simple and playful activities

    After getting institutions and refugees on board, we suggest that low threshold activities, where everyone can actively take part, are found and planned. The activities should have a simple and clear structure that can be repeated and - most importantly – should be fun for all! For example, games that encourage people to get to know each other, or sports activity days.

  • Start with yourself

    Working with refugees from different cultures can at first be tricky, despite our belief that we are open minded. Take some time to self-reflect on your personal and societal prejudices and stereotypes. Talk them over together with other club members. If needed, do some research and learn more about the cultures, religions and languages of the people you work with. Be open to both discover new things and go beyond your ordinary way of thinking. Show that you can be trusted, remember their names, learn some words in their language and start building relationships.

    One size does not fit all

    Inside any group of refugees there are different target groups including; children, boys, girls, teenagers, adult men, adult women, parents, families, LGBT, etc. therefore a one size fits all approach simply will not work. Be open and flexible to create activities and fulfil necessary conditions that will fit the target group, so that everyone can take part. Co-create activities with the target group, ask them what they would like to do and what they feel they need. It is important to be especially aware of teenage girls and use sport as a tool to build their self-confidence before they take part in sport and other activities with teenage boys.

    Sharing is caring

    Once you’ve build a relationship and the people you are working with are comfortable, invite them to share part of their culture with you. Ask them to teach you a new sport, movement or dance, maybe they would like to show you some typical cuisine. Be curious and open to both receive and share knowledge. Be open to their initiatives and suggestions as they can contribute to positive social context, apart from physical activity.

  • Explore local options and opportunities

    Explore what opportunities and initiatives there are within your local city or community to work with refugees, and which local institutions are working in this area. Get in touch with refugee-initiatives, the municipality, charities, or religious and education institutions. Especially in the case of children, get in contact with local schools, as well as teachers of the welcome programmes, and offer to do sports activities in their school. Speak about your project and learn how other organisations faced some similar challenges.

    Partner up, cooperate and create a network

    Cooperating with various key stakeholders, such as the municipality or local council, schools, social and religious institutions that are either already working with, or are interested in working with, refugees is of key importance for successful integration. Creating a network of partners who are working together for the same cause ensures the active participation of refugees, and also helps to evolve, expand and advance the development of ideas going forward.

    Ask for help

    When starting to work with refugees, many obstacles, such as “how to” and funding can appear. Contacting other clubs and organisations, who have previously worked with refugees can help you figure out the right way. If you don’t ask for help, you either don’t know if it is available, or you don’t get it. Most organisations and clubs are more than happy to take some time to give advice from their own experiences.

  • Involve refugees with approved residency in the local community

    Getting refuges that have already successfully integrated - within the club, organisation or local community - on board with being a role model, contact person or translator is a great way to give them responsibilities. Invite them to help you out with your activities and show them how to be an active citizen.

    Build leadership skills

    Throughout the involvement and engagement of refugees in the activities of the club you will show them how to be active part of society and in turn explore what are the different possibilities for them. In this way they become not only a club member, but part of both a family and part of society as a whole.

    Create codes of conduct together and be consistent

    Clear roles and clear rules for everyone involved in the club or organisation helps with adapting to the general rules of society. Creating a code of conduct together with refugees ensures that these rules are collectively decided upon and self-enforced. However, consistency is important when rules are broken. If such an event occurs, it is important to treat the behaviour, not the person, and try to understand why the event happened in the first place.

  • We never stop learning

    As human beings we never stop learning, and in the case of working with refugees there is still a lack of information and general awareness in understanding their situation and perspective. Taking part in various training courses, seminars and workshops can help you to advance your knowledge and understand more in this area. You can educate yourself by finding information and videos online.

    We are all educator’s/role models

    As coaches, managers or volunteers in a club/organisation we are educators by being role models and representatives of our country and culture. Be a role model to your fellow colleagues and volunteers, inspire them and provide training on the topic.

  • Make language part of the play

    For successful host language learning it is important to speak it all the time. Be clear on your communication and speak short sentences in your mother tongue. Find if there are opportunities for them to learn the host language. Be open to learn some basic and activity related words and sentences in their language and use both when doing activities.

    Nonverbal communication and body language

    Your body posture and non-verbal language plays an important role in communication. Be aware of your gestures and make sure they don’t get lost in translation.

Barriers and future opportunities for sport and non-sport organisations to use sport and physical activities for inclusion of refugees

If you work for a community sport organisation and want to reach out to and include refugees in your activities, you will most likely need to get in touch with a local humanitarian organisation to help you get started. What should you do next? ISCA’s MOVE Beyond partners spoke to sport and non-sport stakeholders, including refugees working in the field, to gather perspectives on the barriers to working together and advice on how to overcome them. The results are published in this report produced by the MOVE Beyond project partners, who are piloting initiatives run by sport and non-sport partnerships.

Implementation Guide for Integration of Refugees Through Sport

This implementation guide is designed to introduce you to the topic of Integrating Refugees Through Sport by looking at the relevant theory that is the foundation for the area, the present situation – specifically in Europe, as well as the challenges and barriers that NGOs, sports clubs and other organisations or individuals often face when implementing or running an IRTS programme. This guide looks at the issue from the perspective of those involved: the refugees. Therefore, it also includes an overview of the barriers and challenges through the eyes of those displaced, and trying to build a new life in a new land. Potential solutions to these issues are also examined.

So get inspired, get active, and help make a positive difference to both your community and people’s lives!


Guida metodologica Integration of Refugees Through Sport #PlayTogether

Questa guida è stata studiata per introdurvi al tema della Integrazione per i Rifugiati attraverso lo Sport esaminando la teoria pertinenente che è alla base della problematica e della situazione attuale (in particolare in Europa), nonché per illustrare le sfide e le barriere che le ONG, le società sportive e altre organizzazioni o individui spesso si trovano ad affrontare nell'implementazione di un'idea progettuale riferita al tema in esame. Questa guida esamina la questione dal punto di vista delle persone coinvolte: i rifugiati. Pertanto, include una panoramica delle barriere e delle sfide, attraverso gli occhi di coloro che sono sfollati e cercano di costruire una nuova vita in una nuova terra. Vengono esaminate anche le potenziali soluzioni a questi problemi.

Quindi lasciatevi ispirare e siate attivi, contribuite a fare la differenza per la vostra comunità e la vita delle persone!