Creating active societies and systems to integrate refugees
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children look upwards and play
Working on creating active societies and systems within host communities can provide a sustainable solution towards integrating refugees through sport and physical activities into their new environments.

The literature on forced displacement, forced migration and refugees has made enormous contribution over the last five decades in addressing critical issues such as experiences, impacts, well-being, and the role of sport and physical activity, while connecting these critical concerns to political and policy advances (Spaaij et al., 2019).

In recent times, Spaaij and Oxford (2018) share that the political and policy issues around forced displacement and refugees have hinged on sport and physical activity as expedient to offer refugees good health, social inclusion, well-being, and peace. It is in line with this that the EU, and other nations in the Global North, particularly the USA and Australia, have made tremendous engagement in sport and physical activity as interventions to aid refugees’ health and well-being (Spaaij et al., 2019).

To throw in more support for sport and physical activity in contributing to refugees’ wellbeing, social integration and health, the European Commission awarded €3 million across over 54 projects among EU members (Spaaij et al., 2019). Again, to further underpin sport and physical activity contribution to refugees’ health and wellbeing, the ‘Activity, Sport and Play for the Inclusion of Refugees in Europe (ASPIRE)’ project was initiated, as an Erasmus+ program, to proffer suitable engagement opportunities for migrants and refugees (Spaaij et al., 2019).

It is clear from the literature the contributions organisations have made into refugees’ health, social inclusion and well-being, using sport as a means. It is also not out of place that the World Health Organization has projected the need for sport and physical activity participation globally in its launch of the Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA) 2030 (WHO, 2018). Indeed, the role of sport can be concluded on the basis of the above to have contributed to the lives of refugees, forcibly displaced persons and forced migrants in providing physical health, well-being, sound mind, emotional stability, psychological stability, social inclusion, and overall integration into host communities.

However, reflecting upon Spaaij and Oxford’s (2018) proposition, the political and policy issues should not only adopt sport, but work towards creating a more active society and systems in host communities - by way of making the people active through establishing cost-effective, sustainable, and accessible recreational facilities. This recreational facility could take the form of a mini park, or the size of a quarter plot of land (90ft x 60ft) with basic equipment such as sport disc cones, sport ring ladders, step boards, exercise mats, skip ropes, agility training ladders, soccer balls, portable goal post, etc., managed by sport organizations, governments, and other sport actors within host communities. Local games should be featured and practiced.

In addition, sport actors should consider collaborating with governments in host communities to provide accessible and convenient walk ways, encourage biking to school and work, providing pedestrian signs and cross ways, coupled with high educative campaigns on sport and physical activity and its contribution to the overall health of the individual. The sport ecosystem, through their policies and implementations in ensuring societal activeness, would enable refugees fit into their new communities, thereby lessening the burden on sport actors.

For instance, in Croatia the development of “Polygon of Physical Activity for School-Age Children” (EASO, 2019) is geared towards creating more active society and systems for school children and the larger society to nurture sport and physical activity habits locally. In such a situation, if Croatia becomes a host community for refugees, it becomes easy for the forcibly displaced to fit into the active society.

The creation of “National Fitness Day” policy by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Ghana (National Sports Authority, 2022) is to be observed on the second Saturday of every month and has a similar focus to that of Croatia. This new policy, launched few months back, intends to cultivate and nurture the habits of active society and systems at community levels, and, in the long run, contribute to the overall health, well-being and development of the people.

Consider such a circumstance, when there is active society and systems in terms of sport and physical activity – it offers a more welcoming environment for the forcibly displaced and refugees, shrinking huge interventions to integrate them into host communities.

In conclusion, a new dimension on how sport can better respond to forced displacement should be examined, by working to create active societies and systems in the host communities, by providing sustainable recreational facilities at community levels, to promote sport and physical activity, thereby responding to the health, well-being and social inclusion of refugees.



EASO. (2019, June 20). Croatian “Polygon for Physical Activity of School-Aged Children” Selected for Best Practice Award Aligned With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Retrieved Croatian “Polygon for Physical Activity of School-Aged Children” selected for best practice award aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - EASO

National Sports Authority. (2022, August 19). National Fitness Day Duly Launched. Retrieved https://sportsauthority.gov.gh/2022/08/19/national-fitness-day-duly-launched/

Spaaij, R., & Oxford, S. (2018). “SDP and forced displacement”, in Routledge Handbook of Sport and Development and Peace, Eds Collison, H., Darnell, S., Giulianotti, R., & Howe, P.D. (London: Routledge), 385-395.

Spaaij, R., Broerse, J., Oxford, S., Luguetti, C., McLachlan, F., McDonald, B., Klepac, B., Lymbery, L., Bishara, J., & Pankowiak, A. (2019). Sport, Refugees, and Forced Migration: A Critical Review of the Literature. Front. Sports Act. Living 1:47. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2019.00047

World Health Organization. (2018). Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030: more active people for a healthier world. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/272722. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO


Frank APPIAH KUSI is an Assistant Lecture in Sport Management at the School of Sports and Exercise Medicine of University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, Ghana. Appiah Kusi is also a Ph.D. Student at the Philippine Christian University, Manila where his dissertation is focused on Sport Marketing and Sponsorship.


United States
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
10 – Reduced inequalities
16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions.
Target Group
Displaced people

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