Peruvian football club Alianza Lima partners with UNHCR to support refugees

Peru’s Alianza Lima has become the country’s first professional football club to partner with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to support refugee integration.

The club has pledged to provide talented young refugees and migrants with sports scholarships to attend its football academies and is also working with UNHCR to train coaches so they can better support Peruvian and refugee students and foster the values of inclusion and understanding. The club and its players are also joining advocacy efforts to further welcome refugees and fight against xenophobia.

“Diversity is our strength on and off the football pitch. We have been advocating for inclusion and solidarity since the inception of our club back in 1901, which was rooted in the inclusion of the Afro-Peruvian community. This is why we stand ready to promote the integration of refugees. We know from experience that nationality, race, age or origin do not matter because together we are stronger,” said Kattia Bohorquez Cairo, Alianza Lima’s club manager.

As a result of the Venezuelan crisis, one million Venezuelans arrived in Peru with more than half of them seeking refugee status. Four years ago, the Andean country registered 300 asylum-requests every year. Today, it receives some 600 asylum applications daily.

UNHCR is aware, however, of rising reports of tension, stigma and discrimination faced by refugees and migrants in part due to the pandemic that has stretched the capacity and resources of local and displaced communities alike.

According to some humanitarian assessments undertaken in the country, more than 60 per cent of Venezuelans surveyed reported having faced discrimination this year, an increase of 30 per cent when compared to the previous year.

“Through this partnership, we hope to bring communities together, strengthen ties, break down barriers and empower youth. Sport provides the opportunity for people to be included and protected and an opportunity to heal and grow. Working with Alianza Lima to promote integration will be a gamechanger,” said UNHCR’s Representative in Peru, Federico Agusti.

UNHCR has been working in Peru since 2018, providing humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable and working to help protect and support refugees integrate in the country.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian needs have increased. Many refugee families have lost their livelihoods and lack sufficient access to healthcare. Many also face evictions and often go hungry.

In response, UNHCR has been providing emergency assistance through cash transfers, food rations and shelter support across the country. UNHCR also continues to work with partners and national authorities for the inclusion of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants in public health and social welfare programs.