Although no time-limit is specified in the LITP, a foreigner is in practice expected to seek international protection (i.e. express the intention to lodge an application) at a police administration / station, at border crossing points, in Reception Centre for Foreigners or in the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (i.e. Applicants for International Protection) within a reasonable time after entering the country.
At the moment when a foreigner expresses the intention to seek protection during a border control at a border crossing point,1 competent officials will refer him or her to the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection2 and if necessary determine the time period within which he or she must report to the Reception Centre to lodge the application.
In practice, a person may express such intention even after having been found irregularly crossing the state border or at a later stage, during further proceedings related to irregular border crossing. After the foreigner has been apprehended and transferred to a police administration or station, the police officer makes a report and hands the person over to officers in charge of irregular migration for further proceedings. These police officers will conduct an interview with the foreigner in the police station to determine the person's identity, perform a security check and conduct an informative interview. If the foreigner expresses the intention to seek international protection at any stage of this procedure, the procedure will be suspended and the person will have the right to stay in Croatia until a final decision is taken on the application for international protection.
If after having expressed the intention foreigner does not report to the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers without a justified reason, the provisions of the Law on Foreigners apply. In particular, that means that if a person did not report to the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection where they can officially lodge the application, they would be considered as irregular migrant and would be put in detention for the purpose of removal. The same applies in case the foreigner leaves the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers for more than two days without obtaining consent from the Centre.
However, after having expressed the intention to seek international protection and reporting to the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, an applicant shall be enabled to formally lodge an application as soon as possible and no later than within 15 days from registration of his or her status in the records of the Ministry of Interior.3
The Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (which is both an organisational unit4 of the Ministry of Interior within the Service for Aliens and Asylum as well as an accommodation centre for applicants for international protection) is the competent authority for conducting interviews for the purpose of receiving applications for international protection. The application is usually lodged at the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, and only exceptionally outside the Reception Centre within an appropriate period, depending on personal circumstances of the applicant,5 for example where he or she is detained in the Reception Centre for Foreigners (detention centre) or in prison. In the past, migrants in the Reception Centre for Foreigners have sometimes faced difficulties in having their letters declaring the intention to seek protection delivered to the asylum authority. However, such problems have not been reported recently.
The procedure for international protection is initiated by lodging the application. In practice this means that the application is submitted orally by the person seeking protection in front of the asylum authority (Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers’ administration), which drafts minutes of the interview. The civil servants of the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers administration conduct a short interview to collect the following information: personal data of the asylum seeker, information on military service, family and other relations, information on the journey from country of origin (type of transportation and route) and the reasons (in short) why they fled their country of origin. All documents, including the minutes of the first interview, are then sent to the Asylum Department within the Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for conducting a further substantive interview and examining the application.
Besides that, civil servants in the Reception Centre for Applicants take fingerprints and photos of the applicants, provide them with information on the procedures, their rights and obligations, and issue the applicants’ identity card. The identity card shall be issued within three days from the lodging of the application and confirms the right of residence in the Republic of Croatia until the completion of the procedure. An applicant's card is not proof of identity.6
The Ministry of Interior has informed the Croatian Law Centre that delays in the organisation of interviews for the purpose of lodging asylum applications have occurred in 2016, mostly due to lack of available interpreters for certain languages but also in situations where guardians were not appointed to unaccompanied children.7
In addition, it was observed by both the Croatian Law Centre and the Croatian Red Cross that due to the lack of interpreters for certain Kurdish dialects, no interview for the purpose of lodging asylum applications was organised for female applicants transferred to Croatia under the Dublin Regulation from the beginning of 2017 (see Situation of Dublin Returnees). To date, it is not clear how the Ministry of Interior would resolve this and (possible) similar situations in the future.
- 1. Article 33(1) LITP.
- 2. The Reception Centre is also the place where asylum seekers have to report themselves after expressing their intention to lodge an asylum claim and where interviews are conducted.
- 3. Article 34(2) LITP.
- 4. At the time of writing the official name of organisational unit is still Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers.
- 5. Article 34(3) LITP.
- 6. Article 62(1) LITP.
- 7. Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 2 March 2017.