Cricket the perfect integration tool for Italian migrants

NeuoettingGermany-August 202017: A group of refugees awaiting permanent relocation in Germany play cricket on a Sunday afternoon

Cricket is at the forefront of a special project running in the Italian city of Udine helping integrate migrants from Pakistan & Afghanistan to the Italian region.

Formed in 2014, Ospiti in Arrivo was established to address the acute migration crisis which swept through Europe just over five years ago. Syrian civil war saw cities turn into rubble and was the primary contributor in forcing millions of Syrian migrants to flee to Europe.

Included in this wave were thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis, who were also fleeing their respective home countries for reasons ranging from economic factors to persecution and Islamic terrorism.

Using the well-known belief that sport is a universal language, UISP Udine has teamed up with Ospiti in Arrivo to implement a project, which is open to all using cricket as a tool for cultural integration and inclusivity.

Having made their way through Eastern Europe, the migrants arrived in large numbers in the North-Eastern Italian city of Udine, which is situated close to the border of Slovenia. While noted for its architectural beauty, Udine is a comparatively small city which is off the beaten track for tourists to Italy, who instead flock in droves to the famous sights of Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome.

Due to the size of the city, it was found Udine was ill-equipped to deal with migrants arriving in such large numbers and due to a lack of a place to stay many migrants resorted to sleeping in parks, abandoned buildings and station underpasses.

Migrants were initially treated with suspicion, with the situation threatening to potentially turn volatile. Considering the fact that the migrants shared no common cultural, ethnic or religious traits with the local Italian community. Due to the superb volunteer-led efforts by Ospiti in Arrivo disaster was averted.

The project worked tirelessly to facilitate integration for the Udine migrants. Having witnessed first-hand the passion for cricket that these migrants possessed, Ospiti in Arrivo are using the sport as a social tool for cross-cultural learning & understanding.

Recently, Playing for Change was presented to the city as part of the Vento d’estate exhibition, where asylum seekers, refugee cricket players and representatives from Intersos & United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) all attended the event.

Playing for Change despite being in its infancy has gotten off to a successful start. Migrants play a leading role within the initiative, responsible for organising matches, training schedules as well as thematic meetings and workshops to explain the sport of cricket to Italians.

The first of these activities took place on the 18th of July 2020, with a presentation and a cricket workshop specifically targeted towards Italian children. The workshop was received well by the Italian public.

Ospiti in Arrivo was one of the eight winners of the Partecipazione program, a program run jointly by Intersos & UNHCR to finance and enhance the role of refugees in Italian society.

“It was a beautiful afternoon of sport and inclusion that saw the migrants together with many people who participated in the cricket lessons.” Clotilde Scolamiero of Intersos said.

The UNHCR echoed the sentiments made by Intersos re-iterating Ospiti in Arrivo’s belief that sport is a universal language.

“We are very proud to have chosen the Playing for Change project because we are convinced that sport is a real instrument of social cohesion,” said Giulia Foghin of UNHCR.

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