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    A Whole New Ball Game: Danish Refugees Get a Football League of Their Own

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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
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    Recently, the whole of Europe has come under immense pressure in the aftermath of last year's unprecedented refugee crisis, the consequences of which have not died down quite yet. Countless methods to help newcomers integrate have been tried, including ones that may seem ridiculous.

    Denmark has been one of the most accommodative countries towards migrants, putting forth many initiatives so far to help integrate Muslims, such as enacting segregated swimming hours to appeal to the country's growing Muslim population.

    Now, in a bid to bolster integration in the country, they are planning a refugee-only "Asylum League," designed to facilitate integration through competition.

    Asylum-seekers from accommodation centers across the country will be able to form their own football league. The idea was the result of a recent collaboration between the Danish Football Union, the humanitarian Tryg Foundation and the Red Cross. Per Bjerregaard, former head of Brøndby IF and the man behind the project, said that the main idea is to ease integration.

    "The project can contribute in a number of areas," Bjerregaard told TV2 News. "Asylum-seekers will both get exercise and variety in their everyday lives and gain access to other Danes and associations in Denmark. In this way we can facilitate integration through football."

    Kasper Koch, the head of strategy and project development at the Red Cross, said football can considerably lighten the burden of integrating asylum-seekers.

    "Football is wonderful because almost anyone can kick a ball, regardless of their language," he told TV2. "Besides, it would do asylum-seekers good to keep their heart rates up and get their mind on something else after having experienced so many hardships."

    According to Koch, the project would also help create opportunities for asylum-seekers to stay in Denmark and find jobs.

    "Being part of an association is a vital for getting a residence permit and continue integrating," said Koch. "Good networks are often built through sport, and we all know that about three quarters of all jobs come through personal networks."

    According to Koch, the daring aspiration is that the "asylum league" eventually goes national, as there are well over 100 asylum centers in Denmark.

    "In the long run it would be if this league expanded out to other European countries. Who knows, maybe it could even have the same structure as the Champions League," Kasper Koch said.

    The competition in Demark is slated to kick off in August.

    Last year, Denmark, a nation of 5 million, accepted "only" 20,000 refugees, an exploit which pales in comparison to Sweden's liberal share of over 160,000 asylum-seekers.

    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
    integration policy, football, migrant crisis, asylum seekers, refugees, Scandinavia, Denmark
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