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 2020, although it was planned that it would cover the period from 2020 to 2022. By the end of 2020, the new Action Plan was still not adopted. According to the Ombudswoman, the new Action Plan is being drafted and is expected to be adopted in 2021.
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.
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). 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.
IOM Croatia has further 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.
According to the Ombudsman’s report on the year 2020, the main challenges for successful integration continued to be the lack of language skills, difficulties in recognising qualifications and checking skills and finding a job, which were further aggravated by the pandemic. The state-funded Croatian language course started in December 2019 and took place in two shifts, from 9 am to noon and from 4 pm to 7 pm, which was not suitable hours to employed beneficiaries of international protection. Moreover, COVID-19 affected beneficieries of international protection in the course of 2020. Those who were not entitled to subsidised accommodation and lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic were transferred to the reception centre for homeless people.In addition, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the resettlement programme and family reunifications have been suspended, preventing legal and safe entry of refugees to the country, the Jesuit Refugee Service reported to FRA.
JRS observed that employees of various services are not familiar with the rights of persons granted international protection.  Therefore, beneficiaries often rely on employees from the non-governmental sector when going to institutions. In addition, employees of health services, the Croatian Employment Service, centres for social welfare, the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute often rely on interpreters and cultural mediators of non-governmental as there is no systematic translation support for these employees.
The Croatian Red Cross reported in 2020 that persons under international protection often encountered difficulties in exercising their right to health care, Croatian language courses and housing.
The Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma (RCT) reported that there is a lack of systematic and accessible free learning of the Croatian language. The standard number of hours is insufficient, especially for those beneficiaries who want to continue their education. In addition, different treatment of persons who were granted international protection in regular procedure opposed to those who came through resettlement was observed by RCT as it was more difficult for the former to get access to free language course. RCT also stated that courses are sporadic and that there is no publicly announced plan when they will be available and where.
The Centre for Peace studies (CPS) reported that in 2020, beneficiaries of international protection encountered a number of institutional barriers as well as discrimination practices in exercising their rights. CPS pointed out that the major health crisis due to COVID-19, combined with several earthquakes during 2020 in Zagreb, Petrinja, Sisak and the surrounding areas, made these barriers even greater and put beneficiaries in an even more unequal position. The incidents have also affected vulnerable groups according to the Croatian Red Cross. They faced new challenges and fears while losing direct expert support as communication was redirected to phone and e-mail, except in special cases when people came to the Integration House.
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.
- 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 2020, RCT carried out activities with beneficiaries who were granted international protection and were accommodated in Zagreb, Sisak and Karlovac. During lockdown, activities were carried out remotely. Individual support in the form of psychological counselling, psycho-social support and mentoring was provided to beneficiaries in Zagreb. Areas in which RCT provided support in the course of 2020 were employment, social welfare and health, inclusion in education and access to services in the public system. During 2020, the RCT provided individual psychological counseling, especially to those with trauma experience, as well as individual practical support in integration for about 50 beneficiaries. RCT published a Community Orientation Guidebook with information on basic services and support and instructions on how to access these services which is aimed at applicants for international protection and persons with granted international protection. The guidebook in Croatian, English and Arabic will be available online at www.stire.org. RCT has also prepared a digital handbook for Socio-cultural orientation workshops in Croatian and English, which will also be available on mentioned webpage.
- In March 2020, the Ministry of Interior and the NGO “Centre for the Culture of 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.
- The Croatian Red Cross (CRC) provided support to beneficiaries of international protection under their integration programme. During 2020, CRC provided assistance to beneficiaries of international protection in exercising their rights (e.g. enrolment in the education system, assistance to children in mastering school curriculum, assistance in the field of health care, employment, counselling services). In March 2020, following the introduction of epidemiological measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, CRC decided to limit social contacts with beneficiaries of international protection, and provided assistance by phone, SMS and e-mail. Also, depending on the needs of beneficiaries, CRC contacted the relevant institutions (e.g. health centres, centres for social welfare, Croatian Employment Service, schools, kindergartens and employers) by phone. CRC informed beneficiaries how to protect themselves from the virus i.e. by creating a leaflet in Arabic and Croatian which was sent to beneficiaries via application, while their interpreter contacted those who cannot read Arabic or Croatian. A total of 191 beneficiaries (42 families and 13 singles) received information on how to protect themselves from the COVID-19. After the earthquake in Zagreb, CRC translated the instructions of the Civil Protection on how to act in crisis situations, during and after the earthquake and sent instructions to beneficiaries. 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.)
- During the COVID-19 crisis, JRS employees, led by cultural mediators and interpreters, distributed food and hygiene aid packages (a total of 186 packages were distributed, covering 372 people, including 104 minors). In addition, JRS has opened several 24/7 telephone lines where interpreters and cultural mediators were available to beneficiaries for all urgent needs, counselling, instructions and clarifications. JRS also regularly translated in Arabic and Farsi and visually equipped and promoted all news and recommendations of epidemiologists among beneficiaries (video materials, support groups, brochure, online counselling, etc.).
In 2020, JRS further assisted beneficiaries in different areas of integration, including on education and access to labour market. In May 2020, the JRS issued a new spring 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. Due to COVID 19, JRS decided to digitalise this edition of the newspaper in order to make it available to as many interested beneficiaries as possible. In addition in 2020, JRS implemented the Erasmus+ project “Without the right to choose, but with the right to vote!” which aimed to exchange best practices among people working with young people and empower young newcomers for better integration into European societies. The purpose of the project was to design new methods of working with young people and compile manual with various activities that can be applied in the work on the inclusion of young people in the community and society as a whole. The manual is available online.
- In 2020, 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, 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. The course was initially organised in the integration centre and later through the ZOOM platform. 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.
- The 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. A part of these activities was provided in cooperation with the Integration House run by the Croatian Red Cross, usually once a month. In addition, 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 currently available in Croatian and English and a translation into Farsi and Arabic are being prepared. 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 June 2020, UNHCR’s partner, the Association MI, organised two round tables on integration in Karlovac and Slavonski Brod, local communities hosting beneficiaries of international protection, including those arriving under resettlement. Moreover in June 2020, UNHCR’s legal partner, Civil Rights Project from Sisak, organized a session with beneficiaries of international protection in their local community on access to healthcare.
- Center for Peace Studies (CPS) published the Community guide for volunteering, for volunteers working with refugees and migrants. The guide is available in Arabic, Croatian, English, French and Farsi. 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. CMS also held an education on integration for local integration coordinators from various cities in Croatia.
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