The FC Barcelona Foundation and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, have announced a major joint campaign to rally support for refugee children.

The #SignAndPass campaign, launched with the support of key players of the football club, marks a new and important step forward in cooperation between the two organizations.

FC Barcelona players Lionel Messi and Neymar Junior were the first to pledge their support for refugees and to join the campaign in an exclusive video.

“I am proud to be part of this important initiative in favour of refugees and hope it will help change the dramatic situation that millions of refugee children around the world are currently experiencing. Sign and pass!” said Lionel Messi.

The “Sign and Pass” Campaign is inspired by Barcelona’s football philosophy where one-touch, short passing between players has been a hallmark of their recent success. Supporters can digitally sign a football online and then pass it to their friends via social media.

By signing the ball supporters add their name to UNHCR’s #WithRefugees petition which calls on world governments and fellow citizens to make sure all refugees can have a safe place to live, receive an education and are able to work so they can provide for their families.

In light of their enhanced partnership, the FC Barcelona Foundation and UNHCR are holding today an international forum to raise awareness of the situation of refugees around the world, with special attention to refugee children and how sport can help their integration and be a tool of positive social transformation.

The event, which will be chaired by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the President of FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu also aims to rally support from civil society actors, including humanitarian and sport organizations as well as members of the business, technology and culture sectors.

“The love of sport brings people together in a unique way. The passion and acceptance that comes from playing and supporting teams can dissolve differences. I hope this strengthened relationship with the FC Barcelona Foundation, will pave the way for a significant improvement of the lives of millions of refugee children and bring communities together,” said Grandi.

Josep Maria Bartomeu, President of the FC Barcelona Foundation, said: “This is one of the most serious problems that the world has had to face in recent decades. With over 21 million refugees, more than half of them being children, we feel it is our responsibility to contribute through sport, using it as a tool to achieve social change. With this alliance with UNHCR, we are not only launching a global campaign, in addition to projects on the ground, but we also aim to be a role model that encourages other entities and companies to get involved and participate in actions like this.”

The FC Barcelona Foundation also announced the roll-out of the FutbolNet programme in refugee reception centres in Greece, Italy and Lebanon starting from July.

The program uses sport to improve social skills, conflict prevention and conflict resolution among refugee children and adolescents, to enhance their emotional well-being and to foster their social inclusion in host countries.

A “Sports kit”, which was developed with the help of the FCB’s Innovation Hub, will also soon be tested in several field locations. It includes innovatively designed sports equipment and operating instructions that can be used in refugee sites all over the world, regardless of cultural, climatological and environmental considerations.

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