1.5. Examples of good practice

There is no ‘typical’ migrant and refugee. To conclude this chapter, consider some people who made their way to Europe for a new life.

Bombay-born Sir Anish Kapoor, 61, came to Britain in 1973 to study art and design. He is, perhaps, best known as the designer of London 2012’s Olympic tower – The Orbit. He and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei criticised the “lack of humanity” in Europe’s response to the refugee crisis today, during a “walk of sympathy and empathy” through London.

Hussein Ismail travelled as a refugee to Germany in 1979 from Iraq. He was a martial artist in Baghdad and continued to box in Germany. Ever since he started boxing he planned to open his own boxing club, gaining his coaching licence in Göttingen. In 1993 Hussein finally founded his own club, naming it BC Hanseat. Now, as a part of the project ‘Durchboxen und ankommen’, Hussein offers free boxing training to refugees and locals three times a week in his gym in Hamburg. He aims to instil values such as respect and fair play to his students through sport. In BC Hanseat everyone is welcome, including people who cannot afford to pay membership fees.

Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini was born in Syria and fled across the Mediterranean. She now lives in Berlin, Germany. During her dangerous journey to Europe, Yusra risked her life when she and her sister Sara jumped from a sinking boat into the Aegean Sea and helped push it and some 18 desperate passengers to safety. In 2017, Mardini was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Mursal Ismail, a 35-year-old born in Somalia, migrated to Sweden in 2002. Now he is a captain of the Somalian National Bandy Team. Bandy is a version of ice hockey played in a football pitch-sized rink with a ball. The Somali team was created in the city of Borlänge, where there are 3,000 Somali refugees. For Somali players, the game was “something to do in the winter” even though none of them, including team captain Mursal, knew how to skate. Yet since 2014, the team has competed in the sport’s World Championships. Mursal says that playing bandy on an international level is an important way of showing that the team are contributing to their home country.

In 1992, Sejfuddin Dizdarević came to Germany in a truck from Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. At 15 years of age he escaped from the raging Yugoslavian war and settled in the German city of Düsseldorf. Amidst the 2015 humanitarian crisis, Sejfuddin felt the need, as a former refugee himself, to help other refugees coming to Germany. He organised action at a main train station in Düsseldorf where he and 200 other people welcomed arrivals with food, drinks and clothes. Sejfuddin also gives free courses in the German language, and since he is a marathon runner, organizes crowd-funding campaigns for his half marathon and marathon races.

Mirna Jukic was born in 1986 in Yugoslavia (Novi Sad) and moved with her family to Austria in 1999, where she was made a citizen a year later.  Her impressive career lasted eight years. She won two silver and two bronze World Championship medals, one bronze at the Beijing Olympics and five gold, five silver and three bronze medals at European championships – all for her adopted country.  Her success saw her become a three-time winner of the Female Austrian Sports Star of the Year. Following her sports career, Mirna remains in Vienna where, alongside her humanitarian work, she appears regularly for Austrian television channel ORF. 

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