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ISSN 2624-9367

Sport, Refugees, and Forced Migration: A Critical Review of the Literature



Researchers, policy makers, and practitioners increasingly pay attention to sport and physical activity as a means and context for refugee wellbeing and integration, influenced by wider political and policy concerns about forced migration. Considering this growing scholarly and policy attention, it is timely to take stock of, and critically reflect on, recent developments in this field of research. This paper offers an integrative, critical review of the scientific literature on the topic. It critically synthesizes what is known about the sport and physical activity experiences of people with refugee and forced migrant backgrounds, and identifies key issues and directions for future research in this field. This review of contemporary academic literature comprises 83 publications derived from fourteen languages published between 1996 and 2019. It shows a substantial increase in the volume of published research on the topic in recent years (2017–2019). Published research is concentrated primarily in Western countries around the themes of health promotion, integration and social inclusion, and barriers and facilitators to participation in sport and physical activity. The findings foreground the use of policy categories, deficit approaches, and intersectionalities as three pressing challenges in this area of research. Based on this synthesis, the authors identify four research gaps that require attention in future research: the experiential (embodied emotional) dimensions of sport and physical activity, the need to decolonize research, the space for innovative methodologies, and research ethics.

Keywords: forced migration, refugee, sport participation, physical activity, integration, health promotion, leisure, asylum seeker


SPAAIJ, Ramón; BROERSE, Jora; OXFORD, Sarah; LUGUETTI, Carla Nascimento; MCLACHLAN, Fiona; MCDONALD, Brent; KLEPAC, Bojana; LYMBERY, Lisa; BISHARA, Jeffrey; PANKOWIAK, Aurélie. Sport, Refugees, and Forced Migration: A Critical Review of the Literature. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living. v. 1, 2019.

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