Refugee crisis prompts ERASMUS+ sports fund for social inclusion projects
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Refugee crisis prompts ERASMUS+ sports fund for social inclusion projects

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Sports organisations in Europe will be able to bid for grants of up to €600,000 (£462,347, US$657,647) for projects which are aimed at social inclusion.

Talking at today’s (9 March) EU Sport Forum 2016, European Commission head of sport policy and programme, Yves Le Lostecque, revealed that those eligible for the ERASMUS++ funding had until 12 May to apply for a 2016 award.

He also told delegates at the Grand Hotel in The Hague that the European Commission would be launching specific courses “targeting the better integration of migrants” through its Education, Youth and Sport division.

Le Lostecque’s announcement preceded a panel discussion about the role of European grassroots sport in relation to the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis. According to statistics, 1m refugees entered the continent in 2015, with a further 130,000 coming in the first few months of 2016.

While the panel acknowledged that grassroots sports clubs across the continent could possibly be the first meaningful contact refugees have with indigenous people, as well as being their first opportunity to integrate, it said challenges around funding and manpower still exist.

Folker Hellmund, head of the European Olympic Committee EU Office, said that many volunteers working in grassroots sports clubs were ill-equipped to deal with “traumatised refugees” and that it was “difficult” for sports stakeholder to apply for European Commission Structural Funds.

The influx of refugees and migrants is forcing sports clubs across Europe to examine how they operate, according to Professor Koen Breedveld of the Mulier Institute, who insisted that there was a need to alter cultures at grassroots level in order for clubs to be more accessible for people of different nationalities and religions.

He said grassroots sport “is not as accessible to outsiders as we believe”, highlighting the language used, cultures, jokes and traditions ingrained in these institutions.

“In sport we stick to what we have – immigrants are challenging that position,” said Breedveld. “We need to change at local level and be welcoming to people with new ideas. We have to look at what clubs and volunteers are setting up and if that matches up with what refugees and migrants want.”

Kieran McCarthy, member of the European Committee of the Regions, said that getting support from governments to help with developing sports provision for migrants was difficult and that politicians were “afraid to grasp the straw” of opportunity when it came to providing practical solution, although Breedveld suggested that the lack of academic evidence linking sport to social cohesion – as opposed to the raft of evidence linking sport to good health – was the main barrier to grabbing the attention of policymakers.

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Sports organisations in Europe will be able to bid for grants of up to €600,000 (£462,347, US$657,647) for projects which are aimed at social inclusion.
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