The previous Action plan for the integration of beneficiaries of international protection, which covered the period from 2017-2019, foresaw the adoption of a relocation plan once a year to monitor the integration of persons granted international protection based on their needs. However, this was never applied in practice. As the Integration Action Plan expired at the end of 2019, a new one was still under development in 2021, although it was planned that it would cover the period from 2020 to 2022. By the end of 2021, the new Action Plan was still not adopted.
In October 2020, the Office for Human Rights and the Rights of National Minorities of the Government of the Republic of Croatia held its first meeting of integration coordinators at the local level (within the project ‘‘INCLuDE’’) where the draft Action Plan for the integration of persons granted international protection for year 2021-2023 was presented, emphasising the importance of including as many local and regional self-government units as possible.
On 14 November 2019, the Government issued a decision on the composition of the new Permanent Commission for the Implementation of Integration of Foreigners in Croatian Society. The latter is composed of representatives of: state administration’s bodies, Governmental Offices, local and regional self-government units, public institutions as well as of a representative of a non-governmental organisation. The composition of this new commission has been modified insofar as it provides for the appointment of a representative of local and regional unit and a representative of non-governmental organisation, which were not part of the previous commission.
The aforementioned Decision further foresees the establishment of a Working Group of the Permanent Commission for the Implementation of Integration of Foreigners in Croatian Society. The Working Group prepares, for the Government of the Republic of Croatia, proposals of national strategies and plans in the field of integration of asylees or foreigners under subsidiary protection, ensures operational implementation of planned tasks, reports to the Permanent Commission on implementation and progress or possible difficulties related to planned activities and performs other tasks entrusted to them by the Permanent Commission. In January 2020, the Governmental Office for cooperation with NGOs published a public call for proposal of representatives of civil society organizations for membership in the Working Group. In May 2020, beside representatives of various institutions and competent ministries, representative of UNHCR, the Croatian Red Cross, the Centre for Peace Studies and the Croatian Law Centre were appointed as members of working group.
In 2021, the City of Zagreb prepared the draft of the ‘Action plan of the City of Zagreb for integration of beneficiaries of international protection for the period from 2021 to 2022’. The draft was under public consultation until 15 July 2021. The Conclusion on the establishment and appointment of the Commission for the development and monitoring of the implementation of the Action Plan of the City of Zagreb for the integration of applicants for international protection and persons granted international protection for 2022 was adopted in November 2021. According to the Conclusion, the tasks of the Commission include the development of the Action Plan of the City of Zagreb for the integration and implementation and monitoring of the implementation of measures from the Action Plan.
In 2021, the Ministry of Interior published frequently asked questions and answers in regard to status of international protection in several language.
Basic information for the Integration of Foreigners can be found in an amended guide for integration which was prepared by the Croatian Governmental Office for Human Rights and the Rights of National Minorities in 2019. The guide is available in 7 languages (Croatian, English, French, Ukrainian, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi). In 2021, the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities produced informative video to raise awareness of the importance of the successful integration of persons granted international protection. The objective of the video is to promote the acceptance and inclusion in society of third-country nationals seeking international protection and those granted it through a clear and concise overview of their rights and obligations and the challenges they face along the way.
On the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2021, the Croatian Law Centre prepared seven short videos in Croatian entitled “This is why they are coming.”, in order to present the reasons why refugees are leaving their countries of origin to public. The videos cover the topics of international protection, five grounds for persecution and subsidiary protection and can be found at the following links:
- International protection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4JhAaL1CxY
- Race/Religion/Particular social group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptHtV11UBug
- Nationality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPAHiEPAk50
- Religion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bdg9oEpV554
- Particular social group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acUh1q_uJio
- Political opinion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaG6E_o7H_E
- Subsidiary protection : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n_Vt6PWnlw
The Croatian Red Cross has also prepared leaflets in 4 languages (English, Arabic, Farsi, French) containing basic information for beneficiaries of international protection as well as contact details to relevant institutions and NGOs.
In 2021, the Ministry of Interior created the application “Resettle in Croatia”. The application was created with the aim of providing faster and easier access to information and guidelines for persons who arrive in Croatia under a resettlement programme, and who are granted international protection upon arrival. The application was developed as part of the project “Establishment of a resettlement mechanism” co-financed by the European Union from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. In addition to information on the different steps, i.e. the procedure in the Republic of Turkey and after the arrival in the Republic of Croatia for persons from the resettlement programme, the application offers information on the rights that persons acquire after obtaining international protection and how to exercise these rights and obligations in the Republic of Croatia. The application further offers all persons who have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection in the Republic of Croatia useful information on all important aspects of life in the Republic of Croatia from health care, education, work, housing to easier access to activities necessary for daily functioning. The application is available in Croatian, English, Arabic and Kurdish.
IOM Croatia has issued a Guidebook for the stakeholders involved in the integration process of the persons granted the international protection. The manual is available in Croatian and English. IOM Croatia participated in the European Commission (DG HOME) funded project “COMMIT: Facilitating the integration of resettled refugees in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain”. Within this project, IOM Croatia contribute to following project action’s: systematising community support, including through building capacity of key stakeholders in receiving communities and piloting community mentorship schemes with specific attention to vulnerable groups, as well as fostering transnational exchange between new and experienced resettlement countries to identify and disseminate lessons learned and best practices beyond the project’s geographical scope.
On the ‘Help’ website run by UNHCR, persons granted international protection can also find information about their rights, obligations and the services available to them in Croatia.
As reported in previous years, beneficiaries of international protection still face challenges in exercising their rights, as detailed in this Chapter. The MIPEX 2020 ranking listed Croatia among the countries categorised as Equality on paper – Slightly unfavourable.
In the summer 2020, UNHCR conducted a so-called participatory assessment, a process through which consultations with refugees are carried out. The participatory assessment confirmed that COVID-19 had an impact on all areas of refugee lives, from language learning, access to gainful employment to social integration into local communities. The lack of language skills and the need to have additional Croatian language classes were repeatedly mentioned throughout the assessment, covering employability (especially for women), additional training, communication with neighbours, doing errands and generally through their perception of being accepted and integrated into society
Refugees often face multiple challenges while attempting to successfully integrate into local labour markets, such as language barriers, difficulties in recognition of previously acquired skills, and limited social and professional networks in the area where they are looking for jobs.
In 2021, Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) published a short thematic manual on how to facilitate integration into the Croatian labour market. The manual is divided in three parts, one part aimed for third-country nationals and the other two for NGOs and employers on how to help third – country nationals with integration into the labour market in Croatia.
According to Ombudsperson’s report for 2021, beneficiaries of international protection are exposed to discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, after two years of subsidised housing, when trying to rent an apartment on the rental market. The main problems in integration identified by the Ombudsperson are: non-implementation of continuous and quality Croatian language courses for adults and their certification, delays in preparatory classes for children, employment and protection of labour rights of persons under international protection, and difficulties in accessing health care and health insurance.
The Croatian Red Cross reported that challenges in integration are more present in families than for single persons as the latter are more mobile, they find job faster, have a widespread social network and accordingly integrate more easily into Croatian society. On the contrary, women find it more difficult to work in families with children. Most of them told CRC that they prefer to take care of their children. According to CRC, the integration of women from these families is not going well as their social life takes place in the family and they do not socialise with the local community. Beneficiaries of international protection continued to face challenges in exercising their rights in the health care system and in securing accommodation after having lost a right to subsidised accommodation two years after having been granted protection. Croatian language courses are still problematic as reported by CRC. Additional challenge reported by CRC is the lack of information about the new persons who were granted international protection.
Since the Ministry of the Interior signed an agreement on cooperation with the Center for Cultural Dialogue (CCD), CRC is no longer receiving information about beneficiaries to whom they might offer their services in the integration process.CCD reported several challenges in integration: finding housing units after the expiration of the two-year right to free accommodation, difficulties in finding a doctor (e.g. general practitioner, gynecologist, dentist), learning Croatian language and difficulties with the possibility of scholarships for pupils and students with granted international protection.
JRS reported problems in relation to Croatian language courses, health care system and family reunification. The Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma (RCT) reported that there is a lack of systematic and accessible free learning of the Croatian language. RCT also stated that courses are sporadic and that there is no publicly announced plan when they will be available and where. They also pointed out to existing problems within social housing system and health care system.
The Centre for Peace studies (CPS) reported that in 2021, beneficiaries of international protection encountered a number of institutional barriers as well as discrimination practices in exercising their rights. CPS pointed out that the health crisis due to COVID-19, affected beneficiaries specially regarding employment opportunities as they get fired more often due to reduced business activities of their employers. This is an additional problem to those already in place – i.e. underpaid jobs, precarious jobs conditions, problematic and often short-term employment contracts. Furthermore, CPS reported problems relating to the language barrier, the access to the healthcare system, delays in preparatory classes for children and the access to the housing system. CPS also reported problems in the recognition of qualifications and nostrification of diplomas when persons have documents proving their education, as well as a lack of customised procedures for recognition of qualifications when they do not have documents.
Similarly, Civil Rights Project Sisak reported problems with the access to the labour market, education, status rights, social services, and familiarisation with rights and obligations. Are You Syrious? (AYS) also reported problems within the system of subsidised housing as in practice, accommodation is waived for several months. AYS also reported problems regarding integration into the educational system as well as difficulties in recognizing driver’s licenses issued in their countries of origin.
In February 2020, the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities initiated “INCLuDE”, project with the aim to strengthen the preconditions for social inclusion of third-country nationals with a focus on persons who have been granted international protection. The project is co-financed by AMIF and has a duration of 36 months.
In overcoming those challenges, beneficiaries are assisted by various NGOs:
- At the end of November 2018, the Platform “Danube Compass” was introduced to help with migrants’ economic and social integration into society. The Danube Compass covers living, working, language learning, education, daily life and health and offers an overview of main rights. The Croatian version brings content available in Croatian and English but also in Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. In May 2019, the final conference of the project “The Danube Region Information Platform for Economic Integration of Migrants – DRIM”, was held. The key outcomes were presented at the conference, outlining the information platform “Danube Compass“, which is designed to facilitate migrants’ economic and social integration into the community, providing key information on all important aspects of life in an easily accessible way. “Danube Compass“ is thus a central place for all integration services that migrants can use, as well as the institutions and organisations that work with migrants. In 2021, Danube Compass, has been updated and translated into Arabic, English, Farsi and Urdu.
- A Web platform for integration is provided by the NGO Mi.
- In previous years the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma (RCT), in cooperation with the Centre for Peace Studies and its partners from Italy, Slovenia and Austria, developed an online information and learning tool intended primarily for refugees coming to EU countries through Informative materials on Croatia are available in English, Arabic and Tigrinya on the WELCOMM website. In 2020, RCT participated in the project Strenghtening the integration of the resettled and information relevant for living in Croatia is available on the following website https://stire.org/croatia/.
In the course of 2021, RCT carried out activities with beneficiaries of international protection in a limited scope due to reduced funding. It focused its activities on socio-economic inclusion, especially for women who were granted international protection, inter alia through workshops on socio-cultural orientation and social inclusion for 25 women who were granted international protection. Women also received employment assistance. In addition, RCT was selected to provide group and individual psychosocial support to persons granted international protection who did a paid internship at IKEA, in a project implemented by IKEA in cooperation with UNHCR in several countries in Southeast Europe. RCT also contributed to this project by finding and motivating potential interns. The programme included 15 beneficiaries of whom 13 completed it, and 9 persons received an extension of their employment contract with IKEA.
- In March 2020, the Ministry of Interior and the NGO “Centre for Cultural Dialogue” (CCD) concluded an agreement on the allocation of financial resources for the implementation of the project “New Neighbours – inclusion of persons who have been granted international protection in Croatian society”, aiming at improving their living conditions (through AMIF). The implementation of the project began in April 2020. The project is implemented in partnership with the Islamic Community in Croatia and with the support of the Ministry of Interior. The aim of the project is to increase the success of integration in the three years for 200 people in Croatia who have been granted international protection. CCD assists beneficiaries of international protection through seven mobile teams composed of a caseworker and cultural mediator in Zagreb, Osijek, Slavonski Brod, Sisak, Karlovac, Rijeka, Pula and Zadar. An integral part of their assistance consists in preparing individual integration plans and assistance with access to services. If beneficiaries of international protection accept their services, they will receive an information package from the Ministry of Interior and the CCD will be notified. In 2021, individual assistance was regularly provided for 126 beneficiaries of international protection located in Zagreb, Sisak, Karlovac, Rijeka, Viškovo and Maruševac CCD published an information leaflet for beneficiaries of international protection in four languages: Croatian, English, Arabic and Farsi, regarding the possibilities within the project.
- The Croatian Red Cross (CRC) provided support to beneficiaries of international protection under their integration programme. During 2021, the integration programme focused on providing psychosocial support, assistance in exercising rights, assistance to children in mastering the school curriculum, referral to counseling (legal and psychological) and assistance in the field of health care. CRC also provided group activities such as going to museums, Science Park, sports, educational activities for beneficiaries in Zagreb, Karlovac and Sisak. A leaflet on the first steps in integration of refugees is available at CRC’s website.
- Since May 2020, the Civil Rights Project (CRP) Sisak is implementing the project “Providing support to persons granted international protection for their inclusion in the life of the local community and the labour market”. The main goal of the project is to help families, who were granted international protection, with the integration into all segments of life of local communities in Sisak and Karlovac. In addition, the project aims to provide support and prepare persons for their access to the labour market, as well as contribute to connecting and creating positive social ties and combating prejudice and intercultural understanding in their new environments. During 2020, CRP implemented many activities to achieve these goals. The implementation of these activities also required the establishment of cooperation between the relevant institutions (Social Welfare Centres, Croatian Employment Service, etc.) and civil society organisations. CRP reported that during 2020, 52 persons under international protection were included in those activities as well as 100 persons associated with the success of integration (i.e. employees of the following organizations and institutions: Centres for Social Welfare Sisak and Karlovac, Red Cross Sisak and Karlovac, City of Sisak and Karlovac, Merhamet Sisak, Croatian Employment Service, Grabrik Youth Centre, Centre for the Culture of Dialogue, Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma and the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts in Sisak-Moslavina County.)
- In November 2020, CRP Sisak published a Brochure in Croatian and Arabic entitled: “Providing support to beneficiaries of international protection for their inclusion in the life of the local community and the labor market” with basic information on their rights. In January 2021, the Centre for the Integration of Foreigners was established in Sisak and permanent legal and psychological assistance is provided, among others, to applicants for international protection and refugees resettled through the resettlement program from Turkey. CRP Sisak has started with the implementation of the project “Tolerance over Prejudice”. The implementation of the project began on 1 September 2021 and will last for 24 months. The project is funded by the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy. In terms of content, the project will provide permanent support for 100 beneficiaries of international protection in Sisak, Karlovac and Kutina in exercising their status, social, labour and other rights. In addition, CRP introduced a 24-hour free telephone hotline to provide support and any other type of assistance for beneficiaries of international protection.
- In 2021, JRS further assisted beneficiaries in different areas of integration. In the organisation of JRS, two courses at the initial level of the Croatian language were held from April to October 2021. In addition to learning the Croatian language, the course participants were trained for hospitality jobs. For each of them, individual plans, CVs and job applications were prepared together with a social worker, and they were trained on how to find jobs by themselves. In June 2021, JRS issued a new issue of “Staze”. “Staze” is the first newspaper in Croatia for refugees that was established by JRS and is written by refugees themselves. “Staze” is published in four languages: Croatian, English, Arabic and Persian/Farsi. The newspaper covers topics relevant to refugees and the challenges they face.
- In 2021, AYS provided information to beneficiaries of international protection in relation to the labour market, as well as support in securing employment. They also provided assistance in relation to health care, social welfare, and assisted beneficiaries with finding accommodation after the expiration of the two years period of subsidised accommodation. Support to school-aged children was also provided in learning the language, mastering school materials, cooperating with schools and mediating in the communication of parents with the school. AYS continued to run a so-called FREE SHOP – a place where applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection can get clothes, shoes, hygiene items, dishes and other household items free of charge. After the special epidemiological measures were introduced in 2020, the Free shop continued to operate, adapting to the new situation. AYS also provided an informal initial Croatian language course for applicants for international protection and beneficiaries with granted international protection. In 2019, Are You Syrious? printed leaflets related to their Free Social Shop. The leaflets are available in the following languages: English, Farsi, Kurumanji and Arabic. The leaflets were distributed at the Reception Centre for Applicants of International Protection.
- In the course of 2021, lawyers of the Croatian Law Centre provided legal information to beneficiaries of international protection in CLC’s premises when needed, but due to pandemic, mainly over the phone, WhatsApp and e-mail. In 2020, CLC prepared a series of nine videos subtitled in English, covering the rights that persons who were granted international protection are entitled to. The rights covered by the videos are the right to work, family reunification, recognition of foreign qualifications, unemployment rights, acquisition of citizenship, the right to accommodation, free legal aid, social welfare rights and the right to acquire immovable. Furthermore, videos were synchronised into Arabic and Farsi. Written materials on these rights were prepared and included in the electronic brochure “Although you are a refugee, you have the right to …” .The brochure is available in Croatian, English, Farsi and Arabic. Information on the family reunification procedure with leaflets in Croatian, English Arabic and Farsi is available on CLC webpage. The leaflet was prepared in cooperation with UNHCR Croatia, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. In 2021, the Croatian Law Centre prepared the online Publication on the rights of persons under international protection “Integration of refugees into Croatian society: legal regulation and implementation in practice” with the financial support of UNHCR. The booklet is intended to all those actors who provide direct assistance and support to persons who were granted international protection in Croatia, but also to all other actors in the field of integration assisting such persons. The booklet is available in Croatian and English and contains six chapters: Framework for the Integration of Refugees into Croatian Society; The Provision of Social Services to Persons Granted International Protection at the Local Level in Croatia; An Overview of the Standards Regarding the Right to work and Access to the Labour Market of Persons Granted International Protection; An Overview of International, European and National Standards of the Recognition of Qualifications of Refugees; The Concept of Family Reunification in the Republic of Croatia, Access to Free Legal Aid for Persons Granted International Protection. 
- Center for Peace Studies (CPS) provided different types of support to persons granted international protection such as informal courses on the Croatian language support in accessing the labour market, job search, writing CVs, preparing for interviews, connecting with employers, and holding a course on social entrepreneurship. In addition CPS staff and volunteers provided information on life in Croatia and general psychosocial support to persons granted international protection. Furthermore, their lawyer and the volunteer lawyers provided legal information and advice on various status issues. .
The Chapter: Content of International Protection in Croatia contains sections on:
A. Status and residence
- Residence permit
- Civil registration
- Long-term residence
- Cessation and review of protection status
- Withdrawal of protection status