The world of football has reacted to the refugee crisis with surprising candour as fans express their desire to welcome refugees and some of the largest clubs in Europe flex their financial muscles in the name of corporate social responsibility. Fan groups across Europe have displayed banners welcoming refugees whilst individual fans have worked with NGOs to help collect supplies and money. The FURD mini-bus is currently on its way to Hungary as part of a wider humanitarian convoy from Sheffield.
Such attitudes are to be commended but the question to ask is how sustainable such sentiment will turn out to be. Millions of people are displaced due to conflict and other humanitarian crises. The overriding attitude towards asylum seekers during the last decade has been that of mistrust. British media scaremongering has persuaded many to believe in bogus asylum seekers travelling to the UK simply to abuse the welfare system. That the majority risk their lives, abandon their homes and families is ignored. That there will always be more English nationals abusing the welfare system is overlooked.
There are no easy answers to the challenge of forced migration but the truth is that refugees arriving in the UK to seek asylum are prohibited from working and thus contributing to the country in what has become the convention in capitalist society. They receive a mere 37 pounds per week on which to survive. They arrive in a foreign country about which they have little knowledge, often feel ostracised from the very place they were hoping to find relief from desperate lives. For some crisis is all they have ever experienced. Depression is common, boredom unavoidable.
Having worked with new migrants from the outset FURD recognised the need for making refugees feel welcome a number of years ago and consequently embarked on a rigorous research programme to explore the role that football plays in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers. One of the outcomes of the research project, Football, a shared sense of belonging?, is that FURD have been welcoming refugees and asylum seekers of all ages, abilities and commitment to have a kick-about every week at their base, The U-Mix Centre, and will continue to do so for as long as we are able.
Furthermore, taking the lead from the City of Sanctuary movement, who so ably supported the research, we are currently promoting the concept of Stadia of Sanctuary that seeks to encourage professional football clubs to welcome refugees through a more formally organised and sustainable programme.
For more information about our work with refugees and asylum-seekers, see the links below or email firstname.lastname@example.org