A migrant at a secret safe house in an area known as 'The Ghetto'' of Agadez, Niger. Photo: ANSA/UNICEF
A migrant at a secret safe house in an area known as 'The Ghetto'' of Agadez, Niger. Photo: ANSA/UNICEF

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and Fondazione Milan have joined forces for the project ''Sport as therapy'' which will allow refugees evacuated from Libya to Niger to practice sport to help them overcome the traumatic experiences they have endured as migrants.

The Fondazione Milan, a non-profit foundation connected to soccer club AC Milan, has decided to support ''Sport as therapy'', a project promoted by UNHCR to allow refugees evacuated to Niger from Libya to practice sport as a therapy to overcome trauma, the UN agency said in a statement. 

The foundation has funded the construction of recreational and sports areas in a reception center under construction in Niamey, Niger. In particular, the funds will support the creation of a football pitch with stands, a basketball court and a volleyball and handball court, the agency said. 

Help for migrants evacuated from detention centers 

UNHCR said that the project's beneficiaries are mainly refugees from the Horn of Africa evacuated by the UN agency from Libyan detention centers. These vulnerable people, mostly young, endured violence and torture. Many of them showed the effects of deep trauma and the project aims to help them socialize and regain confidence and self-esteem through sport, the statement said. 

"Fondazione Milan has been one of our main donors for almost 10 years," said Laura Iucci, director of UNHCR Italia Fundraising. ''The commitment of Fondazione Milan has positively impacted the lives of thousands of refugees, especially children. Moreover, we are very happy and proud of this new collaboration which we hope will help many refugees to overcome their traumas and facilitate their social integration." 

'We can help those left behind through soccer' 

Since the end of 2017, Niger has cooperated with UNHCR in the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM), a program that aims to provide life-saving assistance through the temporary evacuation of refugees from Libyan detention centers before they are resettled to third countries. Over 3,000 people have so far been evacuated from Libya, including more than 2,600 who have been relocated to Niger. Fondazione Milan has supported UNHCR since the summer of 2010. The non-profit organization in 2014-2015 has funded an important sport-related project for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and in 2016 it gave 90 of them access to school, according to the statement.

"Sport expresses its highest values when it leads young people to get together and smile," said Paolo Scaroni, chairman of Fondazione Milan. ''With a football pitch or a basketball court, we can help those left behind. This methodology is at the heart of the activities of Fondazione Milan to develop concrete initiatives in which sport generates well-being, equality and social inclusion."

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