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Governance of migrant integration in Croatia

Croatia a country of emigration: the number of those leaving is greater than the number of new arrivals, and the presence of migrants in the country is overall limited. To integrate the relatively small communities of foreign nationals, an integration policy primarily focused on teaching Croatian language, history and culture is in place.

The statistics in the chart above are based on Eurostat's Non-national population by group of citizenship, 1 January 2021, with 76 645 third-country nationals (TCNs) and 21 307 EU citizens living in Croatia at the time.

In addition, in 2020, according to a European Migration Network (EMN) study and Croatia’s interior ministry statistics, a total of 22 095 first-time residence permits were issued to TCNs. The largest share of these were granted for work, family reunification and studies, with just 356 recorded for "other purposes". There has been a timid rise in the number of foreigners in Croatia since 2017, when TCNs accounted for 0.3% of the population and non-Croatian EU nationals - for 0.6%, but the proportion of Croatian citizens in the overall population still stands at close to 99%.

According to the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, most migrants in 2019 came either from former Yugoslavian states Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo, or from the EU countries such as Germany, Slovenia and Italy. However, out of all newcomers in 2019, 26.2% were Croatian citizens who returning. In the same year, there were also 1 932 asylum seekers, coming mostly from Afghanistan (934) as well as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. From 2017 to 2019 some 250 Syrian refugees were resettled in Croatia from Turkey. There are no statistics available on the overall number of TCNs that have acquired Croatian citizenship, but data from the 2011 census suggest that more than 13% of the population at that time was foreign-born. Most new nationals are ethnic Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a group that has been able to easily obtain citizenship since the 1990s.

Integration strategy

To foster the inclusion of migrants, the Croatian government first set up the Action plan for the removal of obstacles to the exercise of particular rights in the area of integration of foreigners for the period 2013-2015. The document focused on social welfare and health protection, accommodation and housing, as well as on language learning and education.

A follow-up action plan for the period of 2017-2019, limited to persons granted international or subsidiary protection, was approved in early December 2017. It included provisions on the right to work, decent accommodation and education. It also focused on refugees' obligations to participate in the economic, social and cultural development of the country.

An upcoming action plan for for the 2021-2023 period targeting the integration of persons granted international protection is expected to also include steps for the better coordination between local authorities welcoming refugees via resettlement quotas. It would also facilitates a more proactive role of migrant associations. As of October 2021, the plan has not been published yet.

Integration programme

Croatia has no official integration programme. However, in 2014, the government designed a Learning programme on Croatian language, history and culture for refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection which, while initially meant to be mandatory, has since been implemented on a case-by-case basis.

The Government also published an integration guide in 2015, inviting migrants to become active in their host country. The document contains basic information on their key rights and duties, the main integration steps, and available services. An updated edition of the guide has been published in 2019 and is available in different languages.

Since 2018, there has been a shift to understanding and implementing integration as a process happening on level of local communities, rather than only on national level or in the capital of Zagreb. This has largely been the result of the resettlement and accommodation of refugees in smaller towns across Croatia.

Evaluation

Activities carried out within the framework of the integration action plans have been reviewed in activity reports for 2014,  2017-2018, and 2019.

However, no official evaluation of the integration of TCNs has been published in Croatia.

The latest 2020 Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) report provides an overview of the state of integration.

Legislation

Law on foreigners

Law 30/2011 of 4 November 2011 regulates procedures related to the visas and travel documents of foreigners. It also introduces measures to restrict foreigners’ freedom of movement in Croatia. Amendment 69/2017 of 5 July 2017 added new categories of vulnerable persons and their family members, and defined the responsibilities of the foreign ministry in the process of issuing ID cards to foreigners. Amendment 133/20201 of 27 November 2020 in turn introduced, among other, the abandonment of annual quotas for employment of foreign labour introduced temporary residence visas for "digital nomads", or remote workers.

Asylum law

In June 2015, the Croatian parliament approved the new Law on international and temporary protection (LITP) which repealed the previous legislation. Prior to 2 July 2015, all protection applications were regulated by the Law on asylum 103/2003 and its 2007 and 2013 amendments which laid down the principles, conditions and procedures for granting asylum and temporary protection, and defined the status, rights and obligations of both asylum seekers and refugees.

The 2015 law however transposed several EU directives into the domestic law, and thanks to a 2017 amendment beneficiaries of international protection are now entitled to accommodation even if they do not possess the financial means to support themselves.

Integration law

There is no self-standing integration law in Croatia.

Citizenship law

The Croatian Citizenship Act of 1991 was amended in October 2015 and October 2019, with the latest amendment stating that the right to Croatian citizenship through descent has been extended and could be claimed by persons past the age of 21.

Anti-discrimination law

Law 85/08 promotes equality as the highest value of the constitutional order of Croatia. The law provides for protection from discrimination on multiple grounds, including race, ethnicity, language and religion. The law's 2012 amendment regulates that “encouraging discrimination shall be considered discrimination in the sense of the provisions of this act.

In addition, a national strategy to fight discrimination was introduced for the 2017-2022 period. The first three years will be implemented through an action plan. Furthermore, the national plan for the protection and promotion of human rights and fighting discrimination for the period 2021-2027 aims to bring a higher level of social inclusion and solidarity, quality of life and the rule of law.

Public authorities

The the government's Office for Human Rights and the Rights of National Minorities, and in particular its leads on migrant integration governance in Croatia. The office is Croatia’s representative at the European Integration Network (EIN).

The office designed the first 2013-2015 integration action plan, the operational implementation of which was mainly the responsibility of a standing committee. This action plan was otherwise implemented through activities led by the interior and other ministries and public institutions, as well as humanitarian and civil society organisations. At the local level, municipalities provide support and assistance in terms of employment, healthcare, housing and education services.

Civil society

Croatia does not have a civil consultative body on integration. Civil society organisations and other stakeholders were, however, consulted during the process of designing the 2017-2019 action plan for the integration of beneficiaries of international protection.

Non-governmental organisations, together with primary schools, open universities, local administration offices, local and regional self-government units, the Education and Training Agency, the Institute for Health Insurance and the Employment Service also provide a variety of integration services.

A recent report by Ajduković et al. (2019) revealed the pivotal role these actors play in creating a welcoming culture and providing early integration measures for newcomers.

Funding

Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several EU funds. In addition, national funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population. The national integration plan’s activities focus on international protection beneficiaries, and there has been a recent emphasis on family reunification, especially for family members of persons granted international protection, as set out in the national programme of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Once the national programmes under the EU funds for the 2021-2027 period are made available, this section will be updated.

EU Funds

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Croatia

  • Details: The EU has provided € 27,662,317 in funding under AMIF to Croatia for the 2014-2020 period. Out of this, 40% was allocated to asylum and 25% to legal migration and integration. National priorities presented in the Croatian AMIF programme reflected the integration action plan (adequate accommodation, access to education, Croatian language courses, introduction to Croatian history and culture, as well social participation).
  • National managing authority: The national managing authority for AMIF in Croatia is the interior ministry.

European Social Fund (ESF) in Croatia

Other EU funds for integration available in Croatia

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authority: Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

National managing authority: Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), offering material assistance to the most vulnerable or in need

National managing authority:  Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate for Management of EU Funds for Rural Development, EU and International Cooperation

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

National managing authority: Ministry of Agriculture; the EMFF supports coastal communities in diversifying their economies and finances projects that create jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts

Other Funds

Other public funding in Croatia

Private funding in Croatia

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