Mission 89 & SOAS University of London CISD Round Table
On June 29th, Mission ‘89 and SOAS University of London, jointly hosted a virtual round table that discussed “improving outcomes for migrant athletes and trafficking victims during Covid-19 and beyond”.
The round table, co-moderated by Mission ‘89 Board Member, Yann Coelenbier and Faculty Member in Sports Diplomacy at SOAS, Dr. J. Simon Rofe, had experts on migration and integration collectively addressing the continued difficulties faced by irregular migrants and victims of sports trafficking globally.
Mr. Coelenbier commenced the round table by emphasizing the importance of Mission’89’s “empowerment-focused DNA”, stating that it is important to “recognize the skills and potential of youth athletes, then transform these skills into positive opportunities for integration and the building of strong legacies for their community and society”.
Baroness Young of Hornsey, a committed parliamentary voice against modern slavery, implored stakeholders to consider how the vulnerability of victims is intrinsically connected to issues of racism that are “unfortunately ‘ordinary’ worldwide, but made only worse by extraordinary times”. She continued to state that “desperation is undoubtedly the driver of irregular migration”, before noting that 20 million jobs are projected to be at risk on the African continent due to COVID-19.
Rafaela Chide Karpisnky of the UISP (Unione Italiana Sport Per tutti) echoed Baroness Young’s sentiment, saying, “We at the UISP are constantly trying to combine the permanent fight against racism and social exclusion with the temporary challenges faced by the migrant community, particularly in these troubling times”.
The round table principally contemplated challenges and opportunities in communication between organizations and vulnerable people.
For example, Rafaela Chide Karpisnky of the UISP saw firsthand the difficulties that COVID-19 created in migrant communities due to lack of internet access. Thankfully, her organization was able to cooperate with a national phone company to fill this resource gap, allowing these individuals to continue to communicate and receive guidance.
Laurent de Boeck, Chief of Mission, IOM Egypt, said that “we must work on alternatives rather than simply just communicating the danger of irregular migration – for some, there appears to be no other choice but to migrate”. He suggested the creation of public training centres and capacity building in conjunction with the private sector as possible solutions, at the national and international level.
Nick Sore, Senior Refugee Sports Coordinator of the UNHCR, suggested rethinking the way in which we communicate risk to young people. “Top down storytelling, from large organizations to grassroots communities, cannot appeal in the same way to at-risk young people as a fake agent selling dreams, however unlikely they may be. Instead we must make efforts to communicate with them on a peer-to-peer level.” He cited the UNHCR’s “Telling the Real Story” campaign as a programme that is based upon this philosophy. Athletes, he said, can play an important role in strengthening these communications with young people.
Kirsty Burrows, Managing Director of Sports Rights Solutions, agreed, saying, “The voices of athletes can be so important in raising awareness and drawing attention to difficult or taboo subjects.” On the topic of communication, Ms. Burrows underlined the importance of considering linguistic challenges and access to resources when formulating policy, particularly at the moment when resources are limited. Additionally, she said, “ensuring two way communication between we and vulnerable groups is key, rather than having us simply providing information with no feedback”.
The importance of collective action was a constant theme throughout the roundtable also. As Rafaela Chide Karpisnky noted, the UISP cooperated with the UNHCR to campaign for migrants’ right to partake competitively in local Italian leagues for the first time ever, highlighting the impact of cooperation in delivering meaningful results for migrant communities. Mr. de Boeck stated that cooperation between migrant rights experts and professional clubs and federations would go a long way in identifying and aiding the “unsuccessful cases” of migrant footballers, allowing for more detailed and expansive treatment of the situation.
In his closing remarks, moderator Dr. J. Simon Rofe said that “while recognizing the number of different stakeholders involved in this complex issue may appear to complicate, we must constantly look for where the overlaps between these actors are, as our cooperation will be the foundation of progress”.