Sport as a support tool at the

Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers



Anne Tatu, Sociologist, in charge of sports policy at the University of Franche-Comté

Benjamin Coignet, Sociologist, Head of the LPro ISMS, University of Franche-Comté


Sport in the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers can be a very effective and innovative support tool. Schemes tested in the Pro ISMS degree show its extensive impact, between occupation and resilience.


Migrations to a country raise the question of how to integrate the migrant population into the national community. Whether it is tropical (how can the individual integrate into society?) or systemic (how can society integrate the individuals while preserving its integrity?), integration implies respect for shared rules and values. This normative integration requires a long stay in the transitional context of the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (RCAS). Consisting of administrative and social support for asylum seekers during the treatment of their demand, it represents a period of insecurity in the already traumatic migratory process. Because of this it reinforces the vulnerability of the asylum seekers and makes it harder for them to plan. The precarious nature of their situation leads to a survival culture which threatens their whole path to integration. Building up resilience can therefore help them in this additional period of uncertainty: by developing their capacity to resist all the many risk factors surrounding them, they can continue to look ahead to their process of integration. For this purpose, the RCAS can use new support means. Sport is one of these innovative tools and it is particularly useful in developing the two essential bases for individual resilience: self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy.


In the University of Franche-Comté’s vocational degree in Social Intervention Mediation through Sport we have been running experiments for three years. Sport is used as a resilience tool, along with other supports, in various RCAS and centres caring for unaccompanied minors. The practice shows that although occupational sport has a positive collateral effect, the real issue lies elsewhere. In fact, if it is to have a place in this very stressful waiting period, the sporting activity available needs to provide immediate feedback on its effective possibilities, the more so as it needs to be part of the migrant’s long-term career. Practically speaking, activities like walking are introduced, backed up by in-depth interviews of the life-history type, which give an insight through the personal histories into the attitude to effort, mobility, the environment and other people relating to the experience of migration. First, in the short term, the activity is experienced as entertainment, and getting back into contact with the self and others, then gradually, with the support of social workers and psychologists, long walks provide an opportunity to work on the suffering caused by being uprooted, wandering and the associated traumas.


This dual approach positions sport as a resilience tool to be used with caution. Vigilance is all the more effective when it is backed up by a multi-disciplinary team who call for greater depth in the training of socio-sports instructors so that they understand resilience mechanisms and clinical work.

Sport et citoyenneté