Successful integration of Refugees and Migrants Through Sport in Germany

By: Katja Sonkeng   Jepkorir Rose Chepyator Thomson  

Sport as an instrument of integration and unification is increasing of social importance in Germany and throughout Western Europe (Petry & Schulze, 2011; Makarova & Herzog, 2014). Accordingly, participation in sports clubs among immigrant youth German is popular (Mutz &Burrmann, 2014). Given this trend, both German lawmakers and private citizens have turned to sports as a way to welcome and integrate effectively the steadily growing refugee and migrant population. There are political debates on integration policies occurring with citizens and sports organizations working hand in hand towards social integration, creating a variety of bottom-up initiatives that involve soccer games. For instance, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) developed an initiative called “Welcome to Sport” specifically designed to welcome refugees and migrants and to counter xenophobia and anti-migrant resentments. The purpose of the study is to conduct a critical analysis of sports clubs, initiatives, and government policies in Germany through the lenses of migrants and lawmakers to determine the role and socio-cultural impacts on the foreign-born population. The following research questions guide this study: 1) How do current sports policies reflect the lived experience of migrants in Germany? 2) Can sport indeed contribute to a sustainable integration of migrants in Germany? Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with German sports policymakers, newly arrived refugees, and migrants living in Germany longer than two years, and a document analysis of currently enforced sports policies. The findings of this study reveal sports as a bridge builder between cultures and nations.

Germany, Integration, Refugees,
2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Katja Sonkeng

PhD student, University of Georgia, United States
United States

Jepkorir Rose Chepyator Thomson

Professor, Kinesiology, University of Georgia, United States
United States