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  • Some of the 10 refugees who have been selected to form the first-ever Refugee Olympic Athletes team.

    Some of the 10 refugees who have been selected to form the first-ever Refugee Olympic Athletes team. | Photo: UNHCR

Published 4 June 2016

The team will include 10 refugees from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Friday named 10 members to the first-ever refugee team to compete at the Olympic Games.

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The Rio de Janeiro-bound team includes two Syrian swimmers, five track athletes from South Sudan, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and an Ethiopian marathon runner.

"These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem," IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters after the organisation's executive board confirmed the group at a meeting in Lausanne. "We will offer them a home in the Olympic village."

The head of the United Nations refugee agency Filippo Grandi hailed the unprecedented team as "a tribute to the courage and perseverance" of all those forced to flee from their home countries.

The team will be headed by Kenyan runner Tegla Loroupe, a world record holder in several long-distance competitions and the first African woman to win the New York City marathon. Her foundation also includes a refugee athletic support programme.

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As the world scrambles to deal with one of the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, Bach voiced hope the first-ever Olympic level refugee team could "send a signal to the international community".

He told reporters that "despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society."

More than a million refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, many of them making risky trips through the Mediterranean sea from turkey and Libya leaving more than 3,000 people dead. Many of those refugees are fleeing conflicts and wars in their home countries such as Syria, South Sudan, Congo and Somalia.

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