Housing

Croatia

Country Report: Housing Last updated: 27/05/21

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According to the amendments of the LITP adopted in December 2017, entered into force on 1 January 2018, asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection have the right to accommodation if they do not possess the financial means or property to support themselves.[1]

The procedure for recognising the right to accommodation is initiated by the submission of a request to the competent social welfare centre. The competent Centre is the centre in the place of domicile of the asylee and foreigner under subsidiary protection. The Centre renders a decision. An appeal may be lodged against the decision within 15 days of the date of delivery of the decision, but appeal does not delay enforcement of decision. The ministry responsible for social welfare renders a decision on the appeal, against which a lawsuit may be filed with the competent administrative court within eight days of the date of service of the decision. Asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection have the right to accommodation for a maximum period of two years from the date on which the decision approving international protection is served.[2] With the expiry of 2 years’ time limit they have the right to accommodation pursuant to the legislation regulating the field of social welfare.[3] In practice however, beneficiaries of international protection are allowed to stay in the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection until appropriate accommodation (a flat) is found for them.

If the Centre establishes that the asylee or foreigner under subsidiary protection generates the financial means or owns property that could be used to generate funds to participate in the payment of accommodation costs, the decision recognising the right to accommodation shall state that the asylee or foreigner under subsidiary protection is to participate in the payment of accommodation costs by making a payment into the account of the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing.

If the Centre, in procedures within its remit, establishes, after the decision recognising the right to accommodation becomes enforceable, that the asylee or foreigner under subsidiary protection has the financial means or property to generate funds to participate in the payment of accommodation costs, it shall quash the decision and issue a new decision, recognising the right to accommodation of the asylee or foreigner under subsidiary protection and establishing the obligation to participate in the payment of accommodation costs. An appeal against the decision may be lodged within 15 days of the delivery of the decision but it does not delay its enforcement.[4] The ministry responsible for social welfare renders a decision on the appeal, against which a lawsuit may be filed with the competent administrative court within eight days of the date of delivery of the decision.

The right to accommodation of an asylee and foreigner under subsidiary protection shall cease in the following cases:[5]

  • upon the expiry of 2 years’ time limit;
  • upon personal request;
  • if he or she refuses the accommodation provided without justified reason;
  • if he or she fails without justified reason to reside at the registered address for a period longer than 30 days;
  • if he or she does not meet the conditions for recognition of the right to accommodation;
  • if it is established that he or she fails to take due and responsible care of the accommodation provided;
  • if it is established that he or she uses the accommodation provided contrary to its purpose.

Save in the case referred to in item 1 above, the Centre, after establishing in the prescribed procedure the conditions referred to in items 2 to 7 above, shall quash the decision and shall adopt a new decision establishing the termination of the right to accommodation, against which an appeal may be lodged within 15 days from the date on which the decision is delivered. The appeal does not delay the enforcement of the decision. The ministry responsible for social welfare shall render a decision on the appeal, against which a lawsuit may be filed with the competent administrative court within eight days of the date of service of the decision.

Enforceable decisions shall be delivered to the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing Care.

Pursuant to the decision recognising the right to accommodation, the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing shall secure to asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection housing units that are the property of the Republic of Croatia or are at the disposal of the Central State Office as per lease agreements concluded with other natural persons.

The Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing shall sign a contract on lease or sublease of the housing unit with the asylee and foreigner under subsidiary protection whose right to accommodation is recognised, for a maximum period of two years from the date on which the decision approving international protection becomes enforceable. The contract on the lease or sublease shall define mutual rights and obligations.

Funds for the costs of accommodation shall be earmarked in the State Budget of the Republic of Croatia under the item for the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing Care.

The provision of accommodation also includes the process of finding, adapting, furnishing, maintaining, and the settlement of utility costs and leasing costs for the housing unit provided. The Ordinance on participation of asylees, foreigners under subsidiary protection and foreigners under temporary protection in the payment of accommodation costs entered into force in July 2018. [6] The ordinance prescribes when the beneficiary under international protection, for whom the Centre for social welfare determined that possess property, in the period while he / she is provided with subsidised accommodation, should participate in the payment of accommodation costs.

In 2020, the Croatian Red Cross (CRC) reported that challenges were observed in securing accommodation for beneficiaries whose right to paid housing has expired.[7] Although this problem existed before, it became even more difficult during COVID-19. CRC has also observed discrimination when renting apartments. According to CRC, beneficiaries of international protection claim that landlords do not want to rent apartments to migrants. It is especially difficult to find an apartment for large families. In addition, after the expiration of two years of substituted housing, it is difficult for both families and single persons to provide enough financial resources for housing and independent living as the average salary of beneficiaries is not enough to cover the total cost of housing and the cost of basic living needs. IKEA made a donation to UNHCR to mitigate health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on some 500 refugees and donated household necessities to help beneficiaries in their integration.[8] Since June 2020, CRC has been distributing the donation, which is still ongoing. Beneficiaries situated in Karlovac, Zadar, Sisak, Zagreb were included.

The Centre for peace studies reported that problems in finding apartments has continued in the course of 2020 as refugees continued to face prejudice.[9] CPS also underlined that the general rise in housing prices in Zagreb was observed as the aftermath of the Zagreb earthquake. In addition, at the end of December 2020, strong earthquakes hit central Croatia with the epicentre in Petrinja (near Sisak where some of the beneficiaries, that came through resettlement, are accommodated), so some of the beneficiaries lost their homes, while other peoples’ homes were damaged to a greater or lesser extent. CPS also reported that in the course of 2020, persons who were granted international protection were accommodated in other cities in Croatia, beside Zagreb which is a capital city. CPS pointed out that there is a problem with not-preparing local communities for the reception of refugees and the failure to provide funds or support to local governments to develop local integration plans.

CPS also highlighted that during the first lockdown in Croatia, a number of refugee families and single persons found themselves at risk of homelessness due to the fact that they have lost jobs and upon expiration of the 2 years subsidised accommodation, which was exacerbated by the difficulties to find a new employment during the COVID 19. CPS sent a letter to the relevant ministries requesting urgent action regarding the right to accommodation, as well as a list of several proposals to resolve this situation. Their proposals were largely rejected and the institutions did not recognise the vulnerable position of the beneficiaries of international protection within the health crisis.

Similar observations were reported by Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma (RCT).[10] RCT stressed  that the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing, showed extreme insensitivity and unwillingness to adapt to the circumstances in the situation of epidemic when many beneficiaries lost their income while at the same time their right to two years of subsidized housing period had expired. In addition, RCT reported that after the two years housing period expires, a large part of the beneficiary’s income is used for housing costs, and if the beneficiaries are unemployed and recive guaranteed minimum benefits, then they live below the poverty line.

Difficulties in housing after expiration of 2- years period in the situation of pandemic was also addressed by Ombudsperson.[11]

In 2020 AYS, assisted in finding accommodation for several families after the expiration of two years of state-funded accommodation.[12] Due to the increase in unemployment among beneficiaries of international protection caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in cooperation with the Solidarna Foundation,  AYS organised a humanitarian action that raised more than 181,000 HRK (aproxx 24 133 EUR) for cost of living (rentals, utilities and basic living expenses). By the end of 2020, assistance has been provided to 74 households, covering 187 people, including 83 children.

During 2019 and 2020, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was an implementing partner of the Ministry of Interior in the Resettlement Programme. [13] During the implementation of the project, amongst other, JRS  provided assistance and support during the relocation from the Reception Centre for Applicants of  International Protection in Kutina to apartments provided by the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing. More specifically, JRS physically relocated persons under international protection who came through the Resettlement Program to allocated apartments. In further monitoring, persons under international protection reported to JRS various problems they have encountered in the context of accommodation. Apartments allocated by the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing, which were renovated and equipped from the AMIF Fund, had many technical defects that affected the quality of accommodation, and sometimes  also the security in those apartments. The observed difficulties in the apartments included inadequate heating in some apartments, humidity in the apartment and mouldy walls, old and inadequate carpentry, plumbing problems, faulty electrical installations, broken furniture, problems with household appliances, insufficient number of pieces of furniture. JRS reported that one family was harassed by neighbours so eventually they moved to another apartment. Another problem reported by JRS is that in a case where family was offered new accommodation, they needed to financially compensate for the change of documents. That is why families generally do not want to change their apartment due to excessive financial expenses and poor financial situation. JRS also pointed out that the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing reacted too slowly when problems in the apartments occurred.

JRS also reported  that during 2019 and 2020, the Central State Office for Reconstruction and Housing allocated apartments  in Sisak to a significant number of persons granted international protection, where  according to the Croatian Employment Service and the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Croatia, unemployment rate is very high. This presents a significant obstacle to the integration of beneficiaries living there because there are not enough employment opportunities,so they are financially dependent on assistance. Also, educational opportunities are limited as adult educational institutions in Sisak do not accept candidates without a good knowledge of the Croatian language.

According to the Ombudsman’s Annual report, 98 rental agreements affecting 245 people were terminated in 2020, mostly due to the expiration of two years in which they are entitled to free accommodation.[14] The lack of social housing policy was also stressed in the Ombudsman report.

 

 

[1] Articles 67 and 67a LITP.

[2] Article 67(4) LITP.

[3] Article 67(5) LITP.

[4] Article 67 (7) LITP.

[5] Article 67(8) LITP.

[6]  Official Gazette 59/2018

[7] Information provided by Croatian Red Cross, 2 March 2021.

[8] UNHCR, Croatia Update May 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2PkIIBw.

[9] Information provided by the Centre For Peace studies, 22 January 2021.

[10] Information provided by the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma,7 February 2021.

[11] Ombudswoman: Provide support to applicants for international protection, persons under international protection,  and irregular migrants; 27 April 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3xnUfB6.

[12]  Information provided by Are you Syrious, 2 February 2021.                        

[13] Information provided by JRS, 12 January 2021.

[14]  Ombudsman, Annual report 2020, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/3aaQXar.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation