Sport continues to show solidarity with refugees

A Football League match in Greece was delayed as players staged a two-minute sit-down protest against the rising death toll of migrants trying to reach the Aegean islands from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

All 22 players plus coaches and substitutes from AEL Larissa and Acharnaikos sat in silence for two minutes to show their respect to refugees who have lost their lives fleeing from persecution and conflict.

An announcement over the club’s PA system said: “The administration of AEL, the coaches and the players will observe two minutes of silence just after the start of the match in memory of the hundreds of children who continue to lose their lives every day in the Aegean due to the brutal indifference of the EU and Turkey.”

“The players of AEL will protest by sitting down for two minutes in an effort to drive the authorities to mobilise all those who seem to have been desensitised to the heinous crimes that are being perpetrated in the Aegean.”

More than a million migrants and refugees made their way into Europe in 2015, with Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy the main gateways for the influx of people.

There have been numerous refugee casualties as they attempt dangerous sea crossings in order to reach a safe haven.

Reports of the effect on the European economy have been conflicting, with European Commission figures suggesting some countries are likely to see a positive effect on public finances, while the travel industry claimed the crisis has negatively impacted their financial results.

Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s Interior Minister, told Afghanistan on Tuesday that his country’s security support would be stopped if the influx of Afghan refugees continued.

“We’re staying here as long as it’s necessary. But we also expect that the Afghan population stays here,” he said.

“We want the influx of refugees to be stopped. There is no welcome money in Germany. There is no guarantee of a job or an apartment.”

While politicians still debate the issue, the sporting world has continued to try and help refugees.

When the crisis first unfolded last year, clubs and players from across the main European football leagues were amongst those to express their support. Ronaldo’s gesture of walking out onto the pitch for Real Madrid’s league game against Granada with the son of the Syrian refugee tripped by a Hungarian journalist was perhaps the most symbolic.

Osama Alabed Al-Mohsen and his 7-year-old son Zied became international symbols of the crisis after they were filmed being knocked over by camera operator Petra Laszlo as they tried to flee from a holding camp.

Other sports have also showed their solidarity, with boxer Amir Khan, who recently agreed to fight Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, spending time driving trucks to Greece to feed refugees, while tennis star Andy Murray has raised more than $121,000 by donating money for every ace he scored through his Andy’s Aces initiative.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) threw its weight behind the cause, making a $2 million emergency fund available to aid humanitarian efforts in Greece.

IOC President, Thomas Bach, recently visited the Open Reception Centre for refugees in Athens to see how their donation was making a difference.

“Together with the Hellenic Olympic Committee we have helped provide sporting facilities here in this camp,” he said.

“By providing these sports facilities we want to give some hope to these refugees. We want to give them at least a little joy of life in these difficult circumstances.”

“We want to give them the opportunity to mix with each other. Here you saw refugees from Syria, from Mali, from Sierra Leone, from Iran, from Iraq, all playing together with us, and really showing a small Olympic community here in this camp.”