In the past, there were no special mechanisms laid down in the law to identify vulnerable persons for the purpose of addressing special reception needs.
The LITP enumerates as vulnerable persons: persons without legal capacity, children, unaccompanied children, elderly and infirm persons, seriously ill persons, disabled persons, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, persons with mental disorders and victims of trafficking, as well as victims of torture, rape or other forms of psychological, physical and sexual violence , such as victims of female genital mutilation.1 The LITP provides special procedural and reception guarantees (see section on Special Procedural Guarantees).
However, up until now the Ministry of Interior did not have special unit dealing with vulnerable groups, but accommodated their needs in the general reception system. In the past, trainings on how to deal with vulnerable cases were organised for staff, but since then new civil servants were employed, so there is a need for the continuation of such trainings.
When accommodating applicants in the Reception Centre, gender, age, position of vulnerable groups, applicants with special reception needs and family unity shall be particularly taken into account.2 Those with special reception needs may be placed in an appropriate institution or can be accredited to accommodation in accordance with regulations on social welfare, accommodation appropriate for their needs cannot be provided if in the Reception Centre.3
The Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions prescribes that reception conditions should be adapted to the needs of asylum seekers, psychosocial support should be provided, and special care should be given to asylum seekers with special reception needs. The process of identifying asylum seekers with special reception needs should be conducted by professionals who provide psychosocial support in the Reception Centre, and if necessary, the competent Centre for Social Welfare can participate in the assessment. The Centre for Social Welfare involved in the procedure of identifying asylum seekers with special reception needs shall notify the Reception Centre of all measures and actions taken.4
Asylum seekers with special health care needs shall be provided a special diet, based on the recommendations of the physician.5
There is no monitoring mechanism in place with regards to measures for addressing special needs of asylum seekers accommodated in the centres. However, social workers of the Ministry of Interior and the Croatian Red Cross are available daily in the Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers and can provide support. In practice, during their regular work and communication with asylum seekers as well as on individual and group support, Croatian Red Cross employees can observe the needs of vulnerable groups and, where there is a need, can accordingly propose changes in the reception of particular asylum seekers to the Head of Reception Centre (for example, a person may need to be accommodated in a single room, or with other persons, or may need to be relocated to the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers in Kutina, which is specifically designed for vulnerable asylum seekers). To the knowledge of the Croatian Law Centre those suggestions were taken into consideration. However with the increase in the numbers of asylum seekers, vulnerable asylum seekers who need single room may face difficulties as there are no available places so people can rarely be accommodate in single room.
According to the Ministry of Interior, special reception needs are based on the recommendation of the doctor after the initial health check (such as special diet, psychosocial support, special accommodation).6
Women and children
Separate premises are provided in the Reception Centre in Kutina for women and vulnerable groups. Families are kept together, while single women, unaccompanied children and traumatised applicants are accommodated in separate rooms.
UNICEF, in cooperation with their implementing partner Society for Psychological Assistance, have established a child friendly space in both Reception Centre.7 In addition, UNICEF in cooperation with the civil society organisation Roda (Parents in Action) organised activities for pregnant and nursing women, so in both Centres they were given the necessary support and advice about breastfeeding and feeding of children.
Roda, as implementing partner of UNICEF during the second half of 2016, was present in the Reception Centre in Kutina 3 times a week and twice a week in the Reception Centre in Zagreb.8 Besides counselling, education and support for pregnant and nursing women as mentioned above, their activities were aimed at preparing children for kindergarten and school, for instance through learning Croatian language, improvement of concentration. However Roda informed the Croatian Law Centre that they do not have planned activities for 2017, as their project finished at the end of January 2017.
In order to prevent gender-based violence and protect children from adults, Croatian Red Cross employees working in the Reception Centres conduct workshops and also organise individual counselling to inform applicants about potential risks of exploitation, sexual violence and trafficking, with a specific focus on vulnerable groups.
With regard to unaccompanied children, the LITP prescribes that the guardian of an unaccompanied child shall undertake all the necessary activities, including contact and cooperation with the competent ministries, other state and foreign bodies, and NGOs, in order to reunite the child with his or her family if this is in the best interests of the child. 9
Victims of torture, violence and trauma
No system for early identification of victims of torture or other forms of ill-treatment by competent authorities and professionals has yet been developed. According to the LITP, applicants who need special reception and/or procedural guarantees, especially victims of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, shall be provided with the appropriate health care related to their specific condition or the consequences resulting from the mentioned acts.10
However until today in practice the system for addressing the consequences of torture among applicants has not been established. It is also unclear who can get treatment and under which conditions, and who should provide such treatments. This is discussed in detail in Health Care.
- 1. Article 4(1)(14) LITP.
- 2. Article 56(4) LITP; Article 6(1) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.
- 3. Article 7(3) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.
- 4. Article 12(1)-(3) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.
- 5. Article 20(2) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.
- 6. Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 2 March 2017.
- 7. Information provided by UNICEF, 31 January 2017.
- 8. Information provided by Roda, 28 January 2017.
- 9. Article 10(3) LITP.
- 10. Article 57(2) LITP.