Sports as one of the successful inclusive practices for immigrants: barriers and possibilities in Greece

Feb 26, 2024

According to Eurostat, in 2021, the number of immigrants who came to the EU from non-EU countries increased by nearly 18% compared with 2020. These figures speak of the increasing migration and the need for measures and strategies to ensure the successful integration of migrants into their new countries. Immigrants face many challenges when they arrive in a new country, such as language barriers, credential recognition, discrimination, and social isolation. To overcome these barriers and integrate into their host society, immigrants need to find ways to participate in civic life and access opportunities for education, employment, and well-being. 

COST Action COREnet member PhD Candidate Andreas Christodoulou (Frederick University, Cyprus) was interested in the case of Greece, the country facing many immigrants travelling mainly from Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. During his Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) funded by COST Action COREnet, Andreas tried to identify successful inclusive practices implemented in Greece and the barriers immigrants face daily.


Sports – One of the Successful Inclusive Practices

Andreas Christodoulou’s research showed that sports can be a significant element in ensuring successful integration. This activity can provide immigrants with physical and mental health benefits and a sense of belonging, identity, and empowerment. Sports can also foster intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding, and social cohesion among diverse groups of people.

In Greece, a country that has experienced a large influx of refugees and migrants in recent years, sports have been used as a tool for inclusion and empowerment by various actors, including NGOs, local authorities, and grassroots initiatives. One example is Organization Earth, an award-winning Greek NGO that operates an education hub for green skills. This organisation offers active learning programs and community-based activities, including sports, for vulnerable social groups, such as refugees, asylum seekers, and low-income families. Through sports, this NGO aims to enhance immigrants’ physical and mental well-being and create a space for social interaction, cultural exchange, and environmental awareness. 


Barriers to Inclusive Practises

Sports are often seen as a powerful tool for promoting social inclusion, especially for marginalised groups such as immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, women and girls, and ethnic minorities. However, there are also challenges and controversies associated with the implementation and evaluation of inclusion policies through sports. Some of the main issues and debates are being identified, such as how to define and measure inclusion and its impact on individuals and communities. 

Moreover, the question arises of ensuring access and participation for all, especially for the most disadvantaged and excluded groups. Various barriers prevent or limit certain groups’ involvement in sports, such as lack of resources, facilities, equipment, transportation, safety, awareness, motivation, skills, and support. Inclusion policies must address these barriers and provide adequate and tailored opportunities for different groups to engage in sports.


From Research to Inclusion Policy

According to STSM grantee Andreas Christodoulou, “The information generated from the collected data from my STSM funded by COST will create mutual benefits. I added a new fact to the literature on inclusion strategies and the barriers the organisation has to overcome due to religious differences of refugees”. Organisation Earth, the hosting institution of this scientific mission, is currently developing future ideas on enhancing its practice of inclusion through sports by considering religious diversities and achieving its ultimate target.


In 2023, ten STSM grantees, including Andreas Christodoulou, received COREnet funding for their missions to research religious diversity and migration issues. The COST Action “Connecting Theory and Practical Issues of Migration and Religious Diversity” (COREnet) opened a call for Short-Term scientific mission applications in 2022, 2023 and 2024. 


Article prepared by

PhD Candidate Andreas Christodoulou
Frederick University
COST Action COREnet STSM Grantee

Dr. Gintare Poce
Vytautas Magnus University
COST Action COREnet Science Communication Coordinator

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