Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 22/04/22


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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 (RCT) 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] The similar was reported by RCT in 2021.[8] Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) also pointed out that there is still an inadequate system for identifying vulnerable groups within Reception Centres for Applicants of International Protection and Reception Centre for Foreigners. CPS also reported the questionable level of providing psychological support to applicants in reception centres suffering from trauma, PTSD and similar conditions in which quality, professional, individualised psychological support is needed [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] However, according to the Ombudsperson for Children due to the increased number, children are accepted in other social welfare institutions.

The Ombudsperson for Children reported a lack of accommodation capacity, for example in relation to the Centre in Zagreb where unaccompanied children are accommodated. The number of accommodated children is not in accordance with the Ordinance on the minimum conditions for the provision of social services. In addition, there are not enough human resources, both professionals and accompanying support and technical staff to accommodate a larger number of children. Ombudsperson for Children received data on significantly higher needs for the care of unaccompanied children compared to the available capacities. As a result, only the minimum conditions for adequate care can be provided. There is also a lack of medical staff due to the continuing need for hygienic and medical care, as children, due to long-term poor living conditions, are neglected and in poor health condition. Social welfare Institutions where unaccompanied children are accommodated informed Ombudsperson for Children of the lack of systematic support from interpreters, which is why professionals communicate with children using Google Translate or English.[13]

A Protocol on the treatment of unaccompanied children was adopted in August 2018 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.[14] According to Ombudsperson for Children, 3 unaccompanied children were placed in foster families in the course of 2021. [15]

Due to COVID 19 pandemic, 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.

At the end of September 2020, the Agreement for the project “New Home” was signed within the AMIF with an estimated project duration of 24 months.[16] The goal of the project is to contribute to the better integration of unaccompanied children into community life, to ensure early integration through reception, accommodation, care and psychosocial support and to support their inclusion in the life of the local community.[17] However in January 2022, the decision to implement the project was revoked considering that the funds of the mentioned project were intended for the reception and early integration of unaccompanied minor girls who were supposed to be relocated from Greece through the solidarity programme. After the girls applied for international protection at the airport in the Netherlands on their way to Croatia in April 2021, a notification was received by Croatia in December 2021 cancelling the transfer to Croatia as the competent Dutch court had designated the Netherlands as the state responsible for deciding on their applications for international protection.[18]

The Centre for Peace Studies stressed that inadequate accommodation, the right to access education, health care and family reunification are the most problematic obstacles faced by unaccompanied children in Croatia.[19] The Croatian Red Cross reported that they have implemented two projects in 2021 aimed at supporting unaccompanied children and experts working with unaccompanied children.[20] Since unaccompanied children are accommodated in various accommodation facilities where they often do not have services tailored to their needs and available interpreters, CRC mobile team conducted a large number of visits to those institutions to provide psychosocial support to children and provide material services (such as clothing and school supplies) in 2021. An initial needs assessment was conducted with each child involved in the projects in order to gather information about the child and determine needs and priorities. For some children who expressed a desire for further support or needed additional information, individual support continued. The CRC Tracing Service further assisted unaccompanied or separated children in finding their family members and in re-establishing contact with family members, and provided support to separated families and / or guardians in the process of reuniting with family members, in collecting relevant documentation and provided assistance in contacting institutions in countries where family members are located.

The City Red Cross Society Karlovac and Split were also taking part in some of the activities in 2021. Implemented activities included: providing psychosocial support, enabling contacts with family members, teaching the Croatian language with the help of volunteers, socialisation workshops, involvement in activities in the local community, etc.

The shortcomings observed by CRC include the following: inappropriate accommodation for unaccompanied children, insufficient number of available specialised services adapted to their age and needs, unavailability of interpreters and in most of the cases late inclusion or non-inclusion in the educational system, primarily for children aged 15-18.  Additional challenges include difficulties in dealing with stress due to separation and / or loss of contact with family members, language barriers and lack of interpreters for certain languages,  assessment of the child’s age, lack of trained special guardians and lack of documentation as proof of identity or previous education.

During 2021, CRC held 3 trainings with the participation of 67 experts from institutions where unaccompanied children are accommodated and from the competent Centers for Social Welfare. Participants had the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills on specific needs and mental health of unaccompanied children and psychosocial support for unaccompanied children, as well as the rights of unaccompanied children in the procedure for international protection. Two trainings were further held for CRC’s volunteers in order to prepare them for activities with unaccompanied children aimed at reducing the negative effects of institutionalised accommodation, strengthening the social network and increasing the involvement and connection with the local community.

In 2021, CRC prepared leaflets with basic information about the project “Integrative Support to Unaccompanied Children” The leaflet is intended for the public and professionals who are in contact with unaccompanied children in order for them to be informed about the services and activities carried out within the project.

In 2021, the Croatian Law Centre in cooperation with – and with financial support from – UNHCR, organised three workshops on the topic „The Protection of Unaccompanied Children: Procedure and Exercising Rights After the Accommodation of Children” targeting special guardians and social workers of Centres for Social Welfares and Children Homes and Residential Child Care Institutions.

In its Annual report on 2021, the Ombudsperson for Children states that, according to the data of the Ministry of Interior, 1181 children seeking international protection were registered in 2021. Out of the total number of children seeking international protection, 195 were unaccompanied. Application for international protection was submitted for 151 unaccompanied children, of which two children were granted protection while for 37 children the procedure is still ongoing. For five children, the application was dismissed as the responsibility of another Member State was established, and in several cases the procedure was suspended as the children left the residence. Out of a total of 195 unaccompanied children, 131 children were accommodated in the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection, while 64 of them were placed in social welfare institutions.[21]

 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.[22]

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.[23] 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 entered into force in 2021.



[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 Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma, 14 January 2022.

[9]        Information provided by the Centre For Peace studies, 10 January 2022.

[10]       Article 10(3) LITP.

[11]        Information provided by the Centre For Peace studies, 10 January 2022.; see also Ombudsperson for Children: Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2021, available in Croatian: https://bit.ly/3rhAPfQ.

[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]       Ombudsperson for Children: Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2021, available in Croatian at: https://bit.ly/3ri402d.

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

[15]       It is not clear whether they were applicants for international protection. Ombudsperson for Children: Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2021, available in Croatian: https://bit.ly/3LYKiki.

[16]       EMN, Migration Bulletin, February 2021 available at: https://bit.ly/2QohgDc.

[17]       Ministry of Labor, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Information on the implementation of the project “New Home”co-financed by the Fund for Asylum, Migration and Integration , available at: https://bit.ly/3xdi7Y9.

[18]       Ministry of Interior, Decision on revocation of the decision on the allocation of funds for the implementation of the project “New Home”, available in Croatian: https://bit.ly/35UVX3E.

[19]       Information provided by Centre for Peace Studies, 10 January 2022.

[20]        Information provided by CRC, 4 January 2022;

[21]       Ombudsperson for Children: Report on the work of the Ombudsman for Children in 2021, available in Croatian: https://bit.ly/377CLR6.

[22]       Article 57(2) LITP.

[23]       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