According to the LITP, vulnerable groups include 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.
Screening of vulnerability
The LITP has introduced special procedural and reception guarantees. It specifies that appropriate support must be provided for applicants in relation to their personal circumstances, amongst other things their age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, serious illness, mental health, or as a consequence of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, for the purpose of exercising the rights and obligations from the LITP. The procedure of recognising the personal circumstances of applicants shall be conducted continuously by specially trained police officers, employees of the Ministry of Interior and other competent bodies, from the moment of the expression of intention to apply for international protection until the delivery of the decision on the application.
At the moment, there is no further detailed guidance available in the law, nor an early identification mechanism in the form of internal guidance.
Early identification is conducted in accordance with the Article 15 LITP at the moment of the expression of intention to apply for international protection by the police officers. Police then accordingly inform the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection and further identification during the procedure for international protection is done by social workers of the Reception Centre as well as employees of NGOs with which the Ministry has cooperation agreements and who come into first contact with applicants when they arrive in the centres. Less evident vulnerabilities such as those relating to victims of torture or trauma, victims of trafficking or LGBTI persons are much less likely to be identified in current practice. The Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma reported that there was still no appropriate mechanism for the identification of torture victims.
The Government adopted a Protocol on the treatment of unaccompanied children on 30 August 2018. The protocol aims to improve the position of unaccompanied children, provides a detailed overview of all procedures and provides guidance for all relevant actors coming in contact and working with this category of children. The Protocol elaborates in 14 chapters on the various issues in regard to unaccompanied children. According to the Ministry of Interior, an Interdepartmental Commission for the protection of unaccompanied children has been established. The Commission was established with the aim to improve inter-agency cooperation between state administration bodies and other stakeholders involved in the protection of unaccompanied children. The Commission is composed of representatives of the Ministry for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Science and Education, the Ministry of Health, the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities and international organizations dealing with the protection of the rights of the child or refugee rights and, civil society organizations dealing with the protection of children's rights. UNICEF reported that their office was invited to contribute to the work of the Commission, so they proposed their employee to represent UNICEF in the Commission. However, by the end of 2018 the first meeting had not been organised.
In May 2019, the coordinating body of the Interdepartmental Commission for unaccompanied minors held a meeting that was attended by representatives of the competent central authorities of the State administration and other stakeholders involved in the protection of unaccompanied children. UNICEF reported that they participated in the work of Commission which met twice during 2019, however without significant and concrete results.
Médecins du Monde (MDM-Belgique) published a study on the mental health of applicants for international protection in Croatia. The aim of this study was to examine the level of psychological distress, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic symptoms on the sample of applicants accommodated at the Reception Centre for Applicants for international protection in Zagreb. A further aim of the study was to examine the possible differences in the domain of psychological distress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic symptoms and subjectively assessed quality of life between the population of applicants who arrived in Republic of Croatia under the Dublin III Regulation and of those who arrived to Croatia through non-EU countries (mostly Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia). An additional goal was to examine the possibility of predicting the level of applicants’ psychological distress based on their satisfaction with various aspects of their lives. The analysis of the results showed that 57.83% of participants scored above the cut-off result on the anxiety scale; 67.47% of participants scored above the cut-off result on the scale of depression; while 65.06% of the participants scored above the cut-off result on the scale of overall psychological distress Similarly, 50.61% of participants scored above the cut-off result on the scale of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Applicants who have been returned to Croatia under the Dublin Regulation have shown more pronounced depressive symptoms and subjectively assessed the lower quality of life as well as lower levels of satisfaction with their own sense of safety in the future.
As part of the project which was implemented by MdM, guidelines on the treatment of cases involving sexual violence against women and children who are refugees and migrants were developed. The guidelines are currently under review by the Ministry of Interior and UNHCR.
According to the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma, the number of newly arriving unaccompanied children is rising.
On 1 January 2019 the new Law on Foster Care entered into force, which provides for the possibility of unaccompanied children staying in a foster family.  There is no information available however on how this was implemented throughout the year.
Age assessment of unaccompanied children
The LITP foresees the possibility of an age assessment procedure if, during the procedure for international protection, doubt arises regarding the age of an unaccompanied child. The assessment of the child’s age shall be conducted on the basis of the information available on the child, including the expert opinions of persons involved in work with the child. If the information available is insufficient, a medical examination shall be conducted, with the prior written consent of the child and the guardian. The medical examination shall be conducted by means of a physical examination, X-ray of the teeth and/or hands, with full respect for the dignity of the unaccompanied child. An unaccompanied child shall be informed in writing in a language which he or she may justifiably be presumed to understand and in which he or she is able to communicate about the manner of examination and its possible consequences for his or her health, the consequences of the results of the medical examination for his or her application, as well as the consequences of unjustified refusal. In the case of unjustified refusal of consent, the unaccompanied child shall be deemed to be an adult applicant. The application cannot be refused exclusively on the basis of the fact that consent to perform a medical examination was not given. During the medical examination, an unaccompanied child who does not understand Croatian shall be provided with a translator/interpreter for a language which he or she may justifiably be presumed to understand and in which he or she is able to communicate. The costs of the medical examination shall be borne by the Ministry. If, even following the results and report on the medical examination undertaken, there is still doubt regarding the age of the minor, the concept of benefit of the doubt shall be applied.
In relation to appeal to the age assessment outcome, the Ministry stressed that in case of doubt in the opinion of the doctor, new medical check would be initiated. The Ministry also emphasises that in such case, the concept of benefit of the doubt shall be applied.
According to the Ministry of Interior, in 2017 and 2018, the age assessment procedure was not conducted. No information is available for 2019.
 Article 4(1)(14) LITP.
 Article 15 LITP.
 ECRE, Balkan route reversed, December 2016, 26.
 Ibid, 24.
 Information provided by UNICEF, 20 December 2018.
 Information provided by UNICEF, 8 January 2020.
 Information provided by MdM, 20 January 2020.
 FRA, Migration flows: Key fundamental rights concerns – Q4, 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3bMF8FQ.
 Official Gazette 115/18
 Article 18 LITP.
 Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 2 March 2017.
 Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 13 February 2018, 28 January 2019.