Young refugees and football celebrities put on their soccer cleats and joined forces in mixed-gender teams for a special football match today in Lyon, France. The event, together with a panel debate which took place yesterday, marks the conclusion of the European Commission's #SupportRefugees campaign aimed to raise awareness about EU humanitarian aid to refugees worldwide.
The match was organised during the Streetfootballworld festival – an annual event bringing together young leaders and representatives from more than a hundred NGOs to promote the community-building power of football.
"It is crucial that we work together with international organisations, charities and NGOs like streetfootballworld, who do such an excellent job in harnessing the power of football for good," said Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. "With the #SupportRefugees campaign, we wanted to mark World Refugee Day and tap into the positive power of football during EURO 2016 to raise awareness of the needs of the refugees and the work we are doing to help them out."
UEFA Board Member Allan Hansen opened the football match, which saw also the participation of former Belgium striker Mbo Mpenza and German football star Cacau, among others.
On Monday 4 July, a panel debate on the transformative power of football in the context of the refugee crisis was hosted by the European Commission and involved representatives from the UN Refugee Agency and UEFA.
The European Commission's month-long #SupportRefugees campaign has reached and informed millions of Europeans about the plight of refugees worldwide and the vital humanitarian support provided by the EU and its partners. Timed around the EURO 2016 football championship, the campaign was kick-started by international football stars Anja Mittag and Marouane Fellaini as goodwill ambassadors, and it enjoyed the support of UEFA, the European football’s governing body and host of the European Championship, and the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro).
Today, about 65 million people worldwide are either refugees or displaced within their own country. It is the highest figure ever recorded in history. Forced to leave their homes, they seek refuge from conflicts, violence, human rights violations and persecution. Their survival usually depends on the availability of assistance, which is provided by local communities and international organisations.
The European Union is a global leading donor of humanitarian aid. In 2016, the EU is providing over €1 billion in life-saving humanitarian assistance for refugees worldwide. This funding helps to meet the refugees' most pressing needs – including vital access to shelter, food, health care, sanitation, education, as well as to increase their self-reliance while reducing their dependency on international assistance.