Accommodation of applicants is organised in the two reception centres for applicants of international protection, one in Zagreb and the other in Kutina.
The Reception Centre in Kutina has been renovated and was reopened in June 2014. The Reception Centre in Kutina is primarily aimed at the accommodation of vulnerable applicants. The Reception Centre in Zagreb was renovated in 2019, subsequently improving the living conditions in the centre. Since October 2021, Reception Centre in Kutina is under renovation.
According to the website of the Ministry of Interior, access to Reception centres for applicants of International Protection in Zagreb and Kutina was temporarily restricted for persons who are not necessary to the normal functioning of these facilities as of mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19 situation. This has continued through 2021. Applicants accommodated in the reception centres were informed about the occurrence of the disease and the measures that need to be taken to prevent its further spread. Leaflets with instructions from the Croatian Institute of Public Health were translated into languages used by applicants and posted in visible places in the facilities so information on the importance of prevention and self-isolation was made accessible to all.
In 2020, due to COVID-19, one part of the Reception Centre in Zagreb has been arranged as a self-isolation space in order to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 and protect other applicants and employees of the Ministry of Interior as well as organisations working in the Reception Centres. The self isolation premises were also functioning in 2021. Also, during some periods of 2020 and 2021, the work was organised in 2 weeks shifts. Additional disinfectants had been placed in the entire building. The temperature was measured at the entrance to the restaurant, and disinfection measures were intensified in the restaurant, while the opening hours of the restaurant have been extended. According to Médecins du Monde in 2021 all applicants who were tested positive and their contacts were accommodated in isolation corridors and rooms but without the possibility of complete self-isolation.
In March 2020, access to Reception Centres for Applicants of International Protection became subject to visitation restrictions, i.e. only personnel of the Ministry of Interior necessary for the normal functioning of the Centre was allowed entrance to the facilities meaning that civil society organizations had to stop with their activities in the centres, with the exception of the Croatian Red Cross and MdM. The same organisation continued in 2021 and restrictions for nonessential entries to the centres remained in place until the end of 2021.
Overall living conditions
Applicants can go outside whenever they want, but have to be back by 11 pm. Under the House Rules the return to Centre after 11pm is possible with the permission of the officials of the Reception Centre. If they want to leave the centre for a few days, they also have to get permission from the Reception Centre.
State of facilities
People in the reception centres share rooms. In Kutina, families share a room, unaccompanied children and single women are accommodated separately in rooms, while in Zagreb a maximum 4 persons can share a room. Families are accommodated in the same room, but in Zagreb if there are more than 5 members of one family, they are given 2 rooms if possible. There are sufficient showers and toilets and facilities are cleaned on a regular basis.
As reported by the Croatian Red Cross, after the renovation of Reception Centre in Zagreb in 2019, the overall living conditions have improved greatly. Since October 2021, accommodation of applicants was organized only in the Reception Centre in Zagreb, since the Reception Centre in Kutina was closed due to construction work on the facility.
Food and religious practice
In both centres, residents receive three meals per day and pregnant women, recent mothers and children up to 16 years shall be also provided with an afternoon snack.
Kitchens, equipped by the Croatian Red Cross, where applicants can prepare meals by themselves, are provided in the Reception Centres in Kutina, and in Zagreb. However, there is no information available whether kitchens were in function in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic.
No problems were reported in connection to the possibility of practicing religion. In the Reception Centre in Zagreb, there is a room for Muslim applicants to pray. In Kutina, applicants can practice their religion in their rooms.
The Islamic Religious Community in Croatia, takes care of the spiritual and other needs of applicants for international protection of the Muslim religion, e.g. by cooperating with officials at the Reception Centres for Applicants for International Protection in Zagreb in order to provide psychosocial support, religious ceremonies as well as other activities.
Activities in the centres
The staff of the Ministry of Interior working in the reception centres was generally sufficient. In 2020 and 2021, the main challenges resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to reception centres was restricted from March 2020 until the end of 2021, with the exception of personnel of the Ministry of Interior, Croatian Red Cross and MdM who ensured the normal functioning of the facilities. Apart from CRC and MdM, other civil society organisations were not present in the centres in the course of 2021. In 2021, as in previous years, most of the applicants did not stay for long periods in the Reception Centres as they
In 2021, Croatian Red Cross (CRC) continued to carry out activities with applicants for international protection in Reception Centres in Zagreb and Kutina.  Applicants were provided with psychosocial support and social activities were organised.
CRC also provided assistance in the implementation of the medical programme in Reception Centres. More precisely, the CRC carried out the following activities in the Reception Centres in Zagreb and Kutina:
- reception of newly arrived applicants for international protection,
- accommodation in isolation,
- distribution of hygiene packages, baby diapers, baby hygiene, bedding, blankets, towels, clothing and footwear, including the purchase of clothing, footwear and underwear,
- ensuring the availability of washing machines, washing powder,
- arrangement of the interior and environment of the Reception Centre,
- distribution of meals during the stay in isolation,
- providing information on hygiene in order to promote hygienic habits and healthy lifestyles and health,
- activities such as billiards, creative workshop, library, hair salon,
- providing access to health care and assistance to applicants when going for medical examinations,
- provision of medicines and other medical supplies for applicants on the recommendation of a doctor,
- provision of food and other necessities on the recommendation of a doctor, including food for babies and young children,
- provision of orthopaedic on the recommendation of a doctor,
- procurement of medical equipment, accessories and supplies, including small furniture for outpatient clinics in Reception Centre,
- organising care for children of single parents during their visits for medical examinations,
- activities for children, especially preschool children,
- support to parents in the care and upbringing of children,
- assistance to children in school enrolment and learning,
- Croatian language workshops,
- informatics workshops for children and adults, and
- providing psychosocial support to applicants for international protection through initial and individual and group interviews/support.
Until April 2021, the work of the CRC team was organised in rotations i.e. a team A and team B worked in rotations for two weeks. The work was organised in two shifts from 8 am to 4 pm, and from 12 pm to 8 pm, and on weekends and during holidays from 8 am to 2 pm. The focus of the CRC activity was on the reception of new applicants, as there was a great fluctuation of applicants throughout 2021. Depending on the epidemiological situation, the activities were adapted to the situation. However, activities that took place in continuity were those related to the psychosocial support, the health programme, medical assistance, procurement of aids and other medical supplies, online teaching and school-related activities (e.g. learning and helping with homework, learning the Croatian language).
CRC reduced direct work with applicants during their accommodation in isolation. For applicants in isolation, CRC was delivering meals three times a day, packages of clothing and footwear and hygiene. Also, all rooms were equipped with cleaning products.
Organisations continued with providing assistance and activities also outside the Reception Centre:
- In 2020, AYS reported that they had access to the Reception Centre until 17 March 2020, after which all providers of activities who had signed agreements with the Ministry of Interior had to suspend their activities in the Centre due to the spread of COVID-19.  Upon expiration of the agrement signed between AYS and the Ministry of Interior, in August 2020, the agreement was not extended due to epidemiological measures in place. AYS reported that, due to the epidemiological situation and the relevant measures in place, there was a lack of integration activities and support for asylum seeking children when integrating into the school system. Another problem reported by AYS was the lack of access to free internet services (WiFi) within centres, after the introduction of epidemiological measures. Prior to COVID-19, applicantsusually had access to wifi in the hallways, but such gatherings were not possible during COVID.
In 2021, AYS continued to run a so-called ”free shop” where applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection could get clothes, shoes, hygiene items, dishes and other household items free of charge  According to AYS, applicants accommodated in the Reception Centre for Applicants of International Protection informed them that the distribution of clothing and hygiene in the Reception Centre was insufficient to meet basic living needs and that clothes were often not suitable for the weather conditions. Furthermore, during the stay in mandatory quarantine upon arrival at the Reception Centre, applicants were allegedly not provided with clothing.
AYS also provides support in learning the Croatian language. At the end of November 2021, free Croatian language courses for beginners started. The course is intended for both applicants of international protection and persons who were granted international protection and it took place in the premises of the AYS integration centre.
- In 2021, the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma carried out sporadically and on voluntarily basis psychological counselling with the applicants for international protection due to lack of funding.
The Croatian Law Centre’s (CLC) lawyers were providing legal counseling to interested applicants mostly through telephone and e-mail due to the pandemic, although in specific cases meetings with clients were also held in CLC premises.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) reported that they provided their legal counseling activities for applicants of international protection in their Centre for Integration of Refugees SOL in 2021 due to measures introduced to combat the spread of the COVID-19 in the Reception Centre for Applicants of International Protection.
Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) did not have access to the Reception Centre, so most of their activities targeting applicants for international protection took place in their premises or in premises of collaborating organisations or outside or in an online format in 2021. In 2021, employees and volunteers of the CPS provided applicants for international protection with information on the system of international protection, as well as with legal support and counselling. CPS provided legal assistance to applicants for international protection in CPS premises but also online, by e-mail, and by telephone. In addition, CMS carried out other activities such as providing support in learning the Croatian language, support in job search, providing information about life in Croatia, carrying out workshops on the topic of employment, racism and discrimination, as well as psychosocial support. The majority of activities took place in CPS premises, in their collaborating organisations or online.
IOM implemented the voluntary return and reintegration programme (AVRR.hr)  After the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, information and counselling on return were provided by telephone and through other communication applications. IOM produced bilingual leaflets about the AVRR.hr programme (English/Croatian, English/French, English/Arabic, English/Farsi and English/Urdu) and trilingual posters (English/Croatian/French, English/ Arabic/Farsi and English/Urdu /Pashto).
The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Project (AVRR), was extended until 31 December 2021. According to IOM, the number of applicants for international protection and irregular migrants covered by AVVR decreased significantly in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to Reception Centres for applicants of international protection in Zagreb and Kutina was limited in order to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so IOM had to adjust its activities, relying on officials working in the Centre and employees of non-governmental organisations that provide necessary services to applicants. The number of visits to the centres has been reduced to include interviews according to the expressed interest for voluntary return. Due to the planned reduced number of visits, a sufficient number of informative multilingual posters and leaflets were sent to Reception Centre so that applicants can refer to IOM in case they wish to voluntary return. Open communication channels were regularly maintained with employees of the Ministry of the Interior and NGOs working in Reception Centres.
Duration of stay in the centres
No information on the average length of stay in the reception centres in 2019,2020 and 2021 is available, while it reached 3 months on average in 2018. However, in practice, applicants do not stay for long periods in reception centres as most of them leave the country after a few weeks. Croatia is still a transit country and it is estimated that more than 70-80% of applicants for international protection leave the country approximately a few weeks after having lodged their application for international protection.
In the regular procedure, applicants can be accommodated in the Reception Centre until the completion of the procedure and a final decision is taken on the case (at first instance and during the administrative dispute). When a final negative decision on the application for international protection has been taken and the time for executing the order to leave the country has elapsed, the right to receiving reception conditions ends.
 Ministry of Interior, ‘Applicants for International Protection in the Republic of Croatia are not infected with the coronavirus’, 18 March 2020, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/3gragjA.
 Information provided by MDM, 19 January 2022.
 Ministry of Interior, Applicants for international protection in the Republic of Croatia are not infected with the coronavirus, 18 March 2020 available at: https://bit.ly/3xgvIOf.
 Article 56(6) LITP.
 Information provided by the Croatian Red Cross, 18 March 2019.
 Information provided by the Croatian Red Cross, 18 March 2019.
 Article 20 Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.
 Information provided by the Croatian Red Cross, 18 March 2019.
 Information provided by the Croatian Red Cross, 20 December 2019.
 Ministry of Interior, ‘Working together to successfully integrate asylum seekers’, 3 March 2019, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/34f1kWp.
 Ministry of Interior, ‘Applicants for International Protection in the Republic of Croatia are not infected with the coronavirus’, 18 March 2020, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/3tFPPU4.
 Information provided by CRC, 4 January 2022.
 Information provided by Are you Syrious, 2 February 2021
 Information provided by Are You Syrious, 7 February 2022.
 Information provided by the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma, 14 January 2022.
 Information provided by JRS, 15 February 2022
 Information provided by Centre for Peace Studies, 10 January 2022.
 Information provided by IOM, 30 December 2020.
 EMN Bulletin Number 34, January – March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3MuY4Ms;
 Information provided by IOM, 7 February 2022.