The model proposed by Kraainem Football Club
Every afternoon of the week throughout the sporting season, from September until May, the Club welcomes unaccompanied young refugees in groups of six to ten boys aged 12 to 18 and groups of young women, all brought from the Fedasil centres in Woluwe Saint-Pierre and in Rixensart as well as the Red Cross centre in Jette. They arrive in the club’s shuttle van. Mondays and Thursdays are reserved for the ladies whereas Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays are when the boys arrive at the club.
Upon their arrival at the club, the young refugee boys see themselves being invited into two refurbished classrooms for one-hour long conversation sessions, in either French, Dutch or English, and which are given by voluntary teachers. During the school holidays, the Club organises specific internships (civic education, handywork and professional training) by referring to external organisations qualified in the various subjects or through cultural visits in Brussels.
After the lessons, the youngsters are sorted into the different teams of the club, according to their age. It is important to make sure that they are divided into small groups of two to three players per team to enable interactions and bonds between the young refugees and the club’s children, which ensures that their integration goes smoothly. The club attaches great importance to the integration of the young refugees and asylum seekers into the club’s teams instead of giving them a separate practice session where they would just play amongst themselves and be marginalised from the club’s life.
Every season, a few of them end up becoming affiliates of the Club, which allows them to compete in weekend matches with their team. During training, all the young refuges are dressed in the Club’s footballing gear. After the training sessions, they are invitedto share a meal with the volunteers of the club as well as with their teammates at the cafeteria. After the meal, the group is brought back to their respective centres in the club’s pick-up van by one of the project managers.
In five sporting seasons, over 2.500 unaccompanied foreign minors have had the opportunity to benefit from this social inclusion initiative by the Kraainem Football Club, which has gathered support by the European Commission and has imposed itself as a flagship project both in Belgium as in Europe.
« We Welcome Young Refugees » has become a part of the « Tous sur le terrain » project, launched by the Royal Belgian Football Association along with over fifty amateur clubs, which all equally welcome young refugees, and belonging to the European network FIRE (Football Including Refugees in Europe), led by the think tank Sport et Citoyenneté.
Collectif Huma, a team of Belgian photojournalists specialising in societal reports, decided in 2019 to point their lenses at Kraainem Football Club to focus on the « We Welcome Young Refugees » project. A series of portraits and stories of the young refugees and voluntary aides were born from this collaboration: Ramzan, Mohamed, Sandra, Abdou, Valentine, Marie-Claire are the heroes of this virtual photo platform, which tells the stories of each of them.