The Refugee Olympic Team has been a celebrated addition to international sports competition.
Since its first inclusion at the Rio Games in 2016 when 10 athletes from around the world participated as part of the team, the Refugee Olympic Team has grown to 29 athletes from 11 different countries. In addition to training for elite-level athletic competitions, these individuals have been displaced from their home countries, and have experienced violence and hardship.
In a unique move, Canada has welcomed three members of the team currently competing in the Tokyo Olympics as permanent residents using their athletic ability as the eligibility criteria. UNHCR, the United Nations’ agency responsible for refugees, has indicated that Canada is the first nation to employ an athletic pathway to permanent residency.
UNHCR will partner with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Sheridan College to provide study opportunities for the three athletes. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi noted only 3% of refugees obtain college or university education and hopes Canada and other nations will continue to use the athletic pathway to provided refugees with opportunities for permanent residency.