15 April 2019

By Elvira González-Vallés


Forced migration is one of the phenomena most significantly shaping our world today. The political situation of many countries in South and Central America, alongside other factors such as globalisation, organised crime and climate change, are behind one of the most severe humanitarian crises of our time.


Countless communities of people are experiencing vulnerability, poverty, inequality, and socio-economic instability, which has generated unprecedented negative social effects in the region. Millions of inhabitants of Latin American countries have fled their homes in human migration caravans, in search of survival, and better futures for their families and communities.


Forced displacement, due to violence in the region, is one of the strongest factors contributing to family mobility. Among these families are children and adolescents, some

setting off on the journey with their parents or other family members; others without any type of adult support. People leave their homes in conditions of great economic and

emotional difficulty and, in most cases, with an abject lack of information and knowledge

about the country where they will seek refuge, the conditions of reception, and the

likelihood of deportation.


In Central America, the migration of citizens from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to the north of the continent, is not only entwined with the American dream, but also simply with the search for respite from intense social and political persecution. In South America, migration from Venezuela represents one of the biggest challenges for the neighbouring countries. Since 2015, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil have all reported increasing numbers of immigrants from Venezuela.


Most affected by these migration patterns are the young people and children of the continent. For them, the migratory experience is particularly traumatic, heart breaking and incomprehensible. First, by the uprooting from their contexts of primary socialisation and their country of origin. Secondly, because of the barriers they face to integrate in the country of arrival, both in school and community environments. But, above all, because of the risks they confront during their journey – kidnappings, extortion, sexual assault or slavery by different armed groups. For example in Mexico, the routes are controlled by organised criminal groups and drug cartels, or by the bodies of security that are allied to the local and international mafias.


Their exodus and diaspora throughout the American continent, in pursuit of survival, poses a threat to stability and progress in the region for all of its people. Such challenges require innovative solutions that can provide a response to such humanitarian emergencies and change perceptions of the problem that categorise migrants and refugees as a dehumanised mass. Instead, enabling the acknowledgement of individual human plights.


“Every day there are thousands of people and their families who face this condition of human mobility and emergency, without hope and without seeing a solution in the near future. Faced with this situation, some very important actions are being developed based on the solidarity of the people, many with a welfare approach, which actually helps, but does not solve. I think it is time to think about more innovative and creative processes that impact these people in a social and integral way, equipping them with personal development tools that help them face their realities, creating hope in them, creating motivation that they need to get out of this crisis, ” says Carlos Pérez, executive director of football for good organisation Fútbol con Corazón, that carries out programmes in Colombia and Panama.


Fútbol con Corazón is one of the three organisations implementing “Football in Emergency Response”, a regional project to provide relief, through football, for people in Latin America affected by forced migration. The project is implemented in cooperation with Seprojoven (Costa Rica) and Fudela (Ecuador). While the three organisations have extensive experience implementing football for good programmes to support young migrants and refugee communities, this is the first time they are joining forces to provide humanitarian aid that goes beyond their own communities, countries and borders. And, of course, they are using football to do so.


“Football plays a vital role in the lives of people who go beyond borders, countries and institutions. In Latin America and around the world, the football and the field are transformative and integrating elements, through which action can be taken to alleviate the emergency situation, provide hope and generate spaces where the right to recreate, to dream, to play can be restored. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of football in the construction of resilience, reinforcement of solidarity and a tool for inclusion,” says Verónica Escobar from Fudela.


‘Football in Emergency Response’ uses the pedagogical force of football to support

people affected by forced migration in Latin America and provide a safe space where fundamental human rights, such as play, recreation and integrity, can be restored. It builds on something as human and basic as “the right to play”, which plays a vital role in post-traumatic stress management, psychosocial wellbeing. In addition, football provides an opportunity for people affected by forced migration to connect and build a community as well as engaging with and integrating in host communities.


“The process of helping migrants or refugees is to accompany them in basic aspects of arrival or departure from a country, with pertinent and updated information that allows them to make sound decisions regarding their displacement situation and protects them from being victims of abuse when arriving in or leaving a receiving or expelling country.

The mission of the project is to strengthen these accompaniment processes for migrants and refugees through activities such as psychosocial wellbeing workshops, recreational games or the football3 methodology, amongst others. That allows us to provide both group and individual support, inform about legal rights and provide a space for leisure and recreational activities. The project is currently supporting migrants who are at the different border points of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Ecuador,” explains Alonso Chaves Vargas, director of Seprojoven.


Based on joint concepts and a set of mutually-agreed objectives, the organisations will adapt their expertise to each territory, culture, and specific need. Another important aspect for the success of the project, as seen by the implementing organisations, is its holistic approach. That is why, the three project partners are collaborating with various other experts in the region – such as ACNUR or Fundación Renacer – to develop innovative solutions that look at the many dimensions of the project.


“This problem concerns all of the public, private, social and civil society entities. We must strengthen the ecosystem around these populations, working one by one, with their families, ensuring their safety and development. If not, this problem will be devastating for the region,” comments Carlos.


Football in Emergency Response is supported by Venezuelan footballer Luis Manuel Seijas in the framework of the Common Goal movement. In 2018, Seijas joined Common Goal and pledged 1% to support Fútbol con Corazón, Seprojoven and Fudela in their efforts to provide humanitarian support to the victims of human mobility and migration in Latin America.



This article appeared in FOOTBALL4GOOD Magazine Issue 10/April 2019. Read more stories from the field of football for good here



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