Special reception needs of vulnerable groups

Croatia

Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 27/05/21

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The LITP enumerates as vulnerable persons: 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.[1] The LITP provides special procedural and reception guarantees (see section on Special Procedural Guarantees).

However, up until now the Ministry of Interior does not have a special unit dealing with vulnerable groups, but accommodates their needs in the general reception system

When accommodating applicants in the Reception Centre, gender, age, position of vulnerable groups, applicants with special reception needs and family unity shall be particularly taken into account.[2] Those with special reception needs may be placed in an appropriate institution or can be accredited to accommodation in accordance with regulations on social welfare, if accommodation appropriate for their needs cannot be provided in the Reception Centre.[3]

The Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions prescribes that reception conditions should be adapted to the needs of applicants, psychosocial support should be provided, and special care should be given to applicants with special reception needs. The process of identifying those with special reception needs should be conducted by professionals who provide psychosocial support in the Reception Centre, and if necessary, the competent Centre for Social Welfare can participate in the assessment. The Centre for Social Welfare involved in the procedure of identifying applicants with special reception needs shall notify the Reception Centre of all measures and actions taken.[4]

Applicants with special health care needs shall be provided a special diet, based on the recommendations of the physician.[5]

There is no monitoring mechanism in place with regards to measures for addressing special needs of applicants accommodated in the centres. However, social workers of the Ministry of Interior and the Croatian Red Cross are available daily in the Reception Centres and can provide support. In practice, during their regular work and communication with applicants as well as during individual and group support, Croatian Red Cross employees can observe the needs of vulnerable groups and, where there is a need, can accordingly propose changes in the reception of particular applicants to the Head of Reception Centre (for example, a person may need to be accommodated in a single room, or with other persons, or may need to be relocated to the Reception Centre in Kutina, which is specifically designed for vulnerable applicants).

The Ministry of Interior, depending on the needs of the applicant, cooperates with other competent bodies in relation to reception guarantees, for example with Centres for Social Welfare which are, when appropriate, included in the procedure for assessing special needs. In the case when adequate accommodation cannot be provided for those persons in the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection, a person would be accommodated in another appropriate institution or can be granted accommodation according to the social welfare regulations. Also, when needed, special dietary requirements will be provided based on the recommendation of the competent physician. Applicants accommodated in the Reception Centre are provided with three meals a day and pregnant women, babies and children under the age of 16 are provided with an afternoon snack. Upon recommendation of the doctor, separate accommodation would be provided to those with special reception needs. If needed, they would be provided with appropriate health care related to their specific health condition.[6]

In 2020, the NGO Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma informed FRA that they noted difficulties in ensuring the standards laid down in the Receptions Conditions Directive, especially for vulnerable applicants. They reported that an applicant with amputated legs was placed in a facility for the elderly with mental problems, which was not adapted for people in wheelchairs. They also highlighted the lack of effective mechanisms to identify torture victims.[7] Centre for Peace Studies also pointed out that there is still an inadequate system for identifying vulnerable groups within Reception Centres for Applicants of International Protection.[8]

At the beginning of May 2020, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Croatia took over the coordination for activities to support children and families in the Porin reception centre.[9]

Reception of women and children

Separate premises are provided in the Reception Centre in Kutina for women and vulnerable groups. Families are kept together, while single women, unaccompanied children and traumatised applicants are accommodated in separate rooms.

Reception of unaccompanied children

With regard to unaccompanied children, the LITP prescribes that the guardian of an unaccompanied child shall undertake all the necessary activities, including contact and cooperation with the competent ministries, other state and foreign bodies, and NGOs, in order to reunite the child with his or her family if this is in the best interests of the child.[10]

In practice, most unaccompanied foreign children up to now are placed in children and young people’s homes. Children under 14 years of age are accommodated in children’s homes, while children above the age of 14 are accommodated in Residential Child Care Institutions. Although these are open facilities, they are not adapted to the needs of this category of children. Special concerns from various NGOs have been raised in relation to accommodating children in Residential Child Care Institutions as their primary function is to treat children with behavioural difficulties, so the conditions of their stay cannot be considered suitable for this group, especially when taking into account the specific needs of these children, as well as unavailability of interpreters in those institutions.[11]

The Croatian government designated two facilities for children in Zagreb and in Split for the initial reception of UASC during which best interests’ procedures are undertaken. These procedures should be completed within 3 months to determine appropriate solutions, including on accommodation and care.[12]

A Protocol on the treatment of unaccompanied children was adopted in August 2018 (see Identification) which foresees the possibility of accommodation with foster families.

A new Law on Foster Care, which entered into force on 1 January 2019 has opened the possibility for unaccompanied children to be accommodate in the foster families.[13]  However, according to Ombudsperson for Children, this possibility was not used in 2020.[14]

Due to COVID 19 pandemic, visits to institutions in the social care system, which provide accommodation to children and young people, were prohibited and/or restricted during certain periods of time in 2020. Recommendations on epidemiological measures that needed to be implemented within social care system were updated regularly in relation to different aspects of the organisation of work of providers of social care.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect beneficiaries and employees in the social welfare system, the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy issued a large number of decisions, recommendations and guidelines on how to provide social services and act in the protection of unaccompanied children in situations of threat or epidemic, in order to protect unaccompanied children. However, certain problems have been identified in the implementation of these guidelines. Employees of social care institutions where unaccompanied children are accommodated were confronted with fear of potential infections and difficulties in working in changed circumstances of working with beneficiaries under protective equipment. Newly accommodated unaccompanied children had to be placed in self-isolation upon arrival at the facility, prior the test results for Covid-19 were received. This was both difficult for children, while at the same time accommodation in self-isolation was extremely difficult to organise due to the lack of accommodation capacity. This situation improved, however, upon receipt of rapid COVID-19 tests from the competent ministry.[15]

In September  2020, the Ministry of Interior’s Directorate for European Affairs, International Relations and European Union Funds decided to allocate funds for the implementation of a project aimed at the early integration of unaccompanied children.[16]The goal of the project New Home is to contribute to the better integration of unaccompanied children into community, to ensure early integration through reception, accommodation, guardianship care and psychosocial support and to support their inclusion into the local community. The beneficiary of the project is the Ministry of Labor, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Center for Social Welfare in Pakrac and the Community Center in Lipik.

On 20 November 2020, on the occasion of the World Children’s Day, the Croatian Law Centre in cooperation with – and with financial support from – UNHCR, organised the online conference “Actualities in the Field of the Protection of Rights of Unaccompanied children”. The topic of the conference was to provide an overview of the state of play of the protection of unaccompanied children, with a special focus on the expected arrival of unaccompanied children from Greece. A total of 30 participants were present at the conference.

In its Annual report on 2020, the Ombudsperson for Children states that, according to the data of the Ministry of Interior, 942 children seeking international protection were registered in 2020. [17] Out of the total number of children, 186 were unaccompanied. Of that number, 94 were placed in social welfare institutions, while the other 92 were placed in Reception Centre for applicants for international protection. A total of 17 international protection were granted to children and no international protection was granted to unaccompanied children, as they left before the end of the procedure for international protection.

Reception of victims of torture, violence and trauma

No system for early identification of victims of torture or other forms of ill-treatment by competent authorities and professionals has yet been developed. According to the LITP, applicants who need special reception and/or procedural guarantees, especially victims of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, shall be provided with the appropriate health care related to their specific condition or the consequences resulting from the mentioned acts.[18]

The system for addressing the consequences of torture among applicants was not established in practice for years and there was a lack of clarity on who can get treatment and under which conditions, and who should provide such treatments.  However in 2020, the Ordinance on health care standards for applicants for international protection and foreigners under temporary protection entered into force regulating, amongst other, also the scope of health care for vulnerable groups.[19] This is discussed in detail in Health Care.

Standard Operational Procedure in Cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Reception Centres for Applicants of International Protection is in its final stage of development.

 

[1]  Article 4(1)(14) LITP.

[2]  Article 56(4) LITP; Article 6(1) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.

[3]  Article 7(3) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.

[4]  Article 12(1)-(3) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.

[5]  Article 20(2) Ordinance on the Realisation of Material Reception Conditions.

[6]  Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 28 January 2019.

[7] FRA, Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns – Quarterly bulletin 4 – 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3avkqMn.

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

[9] UNICEF, ‘Life continues in the Porin reception centre of Zagreb despite the uncertainty of COVID-19’, 5 May 2020, available at: https://uni.cf/3avkvj9.

[10] Article 10(3) LITP.

[11] Information provided by the Centre For Peace studies, 22 January 2021.; see also FRA, Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns – Quarterly bulletin 4 – 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3avkqMn.

[12] UNHCR; UNICEF and IOM: Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe – Accompanied, Unaccompanied and Separated, Overview of Trends January to June 2020 available in English at: https://bit.ly/32AD0OY.

[13] Official Gazette 115/2018, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/2xP8gh5.

[14] Ombudsperson for Children, Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2020, March 2021, available online as of  7 April 2021 at : https://bit.ly/3swZOtt.

[15]  Ombudsperson for Children, Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2020, March 2021, available online as of  7 April 2021 at : https://bit.ly/3swZOtt.

[16] Decision on the allocations of the funds, 18 September 2020, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/3n8b3Ya.

[17] Ombudsperson for Children, Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2020, March 2021, available online as of  7 April 2021 at : https://bit.ly/3swZOtt.

[18]  Article 57(2) LITP.

[19]  Official Gazette 28/2020, 13 March 2020, available in Croatia at : https://bit.ly/2PcZGBM.

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