An article titled “Asylum seekers massively fleeing from Croatia” published in Croatian news outlet Večernji list made a claim referring to the refugees who come to this country, saying that: ”Just little bit over than 10 percent of them remain in Croatia.” The claim turns out to be mostly true.
Croatia has come to be known as a transit country for migrants and refugees since 2015, when refugees and other migrants – mostly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – were crossing Croatia on their way to Northern Europe. A small number of them permanently stayed in Croatia and applied for asylum. The Balkan Route has been closed since March 2016.
In 2018, several EU countries agreed to set up a ‘solidarity mechanism’ with the aim of fairly redistributing migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. Croatia as the EU Member State was included in the European Solidarity Programme, Refugee Relocation System, which entails the transfer of persons who are in need of international protection from one EU Member State to another. Specifically, the aim was to reduce pressure on camps in Greece and Italy who were overpopulated by migrants arriving by sea in Italy and Greece.
According to the Ministry of the Interior of Republic Croatia, out of 250 resettled persons that were received by Republic of Croatia under the EU Solidarity Mechanism in 2020, only 67 remained in the country. This means that 73.6 percent of those who were brought in from overcrowded camps, decided not to stay. According to the news outlet Večernji list, migrants abuse the Croatian institute of international protection.
Applications for international protection
The aim was to check whether the claim that only 10 percent of asylum seekers stay in the country is true or false. As it was not clear in the article if the data were interpreted correctly, we asked for the information from the Ministry of Interior Press Office.
In the last four years in Croatia, 6873 applications for international protection have been submitted, but 5031 asylum seekers, which is 73.2 percent, did not wait for the final procedure, but left Croatia. The figures from last year 2020, 1932 asylum applications were submitted, but 1675 of them, which is as much as 87 percent, were suspended. This is also confirmed in a report for Croatia by the Asylum Information Database.
Further, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia clarifies that a seeker of international protection is a third-country national or stateless person who expresses an intention to apply for international protection pending the enforceability of the decision on the application decided on by the Ministry of the Interior. That includes asylum and subsidiary protection on the basis of a decision of the competent authority. Furthermore, seekers have the right to stay in Croatia, are ensured health care, freedom of religion, primary and secondary education, insurance of material conditions, and can brought to court in a language that the seeker of international application understands.
If third-country nationals – who enter and reside illegally in the Republic of Croatia – do not request international protection, the police are obliged to issue a decision on their return and take measures for their departure from the European Economic Area, according to the Immigration Law.
Abuse of Institute of International Protection
Additionally, according to the Press Office who answered our request, the data confirms the abuse of the Institute of International Protection of the Republic of Croatia, both by illegal migrants and by those who legally – by relocation – came or were on the way to Croatia, asking for protection from persecution.
Migrants do not want to apply for international protection in Croatia. The Ministry further commented that their only goal is to reach other EU member countries where they can apply for international protection. According to it, for this reason the migrants relocated in Croatia do not want to give fingerprints for the European Asylum Dactyloscopy Database (EURODAC). As the Ministry Press Office concludes in the letter, these are mostly economic migrants, and Croatia is not their country of choice for a better life.
Their target destinations are mainly Western European countries, especially Germany, where they can most easily find employment. According to Neven Šimac, who wrote about the refugees problem in his scientific paper called The Church and the Christian Faced with the Challenges of Contemporary Migrations (2019): ”Croatia is not attractive to migrants not only because of working conditions and wages but also because it is not part of the Schengen area of the European Union.”
From the given data we can conclude that the claim referring to asylum seekers stating that “just little bit over 10 percent of them remain in Croatia” is mostly true. Throughout our research we confirmed that the percentage of asylum seekers and persons under international protection is quite low. The figures for 2020 are close to ten percent, to be more precise – only 13% decided to stay in Croatia. In this factcheck article we did not dig deep in the reasons for leaving Croatia, but the fact remains that for most of the refugees Croatia remains a transit country on their way to the most desired countries.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Maja Matas & Nikolina Marošević, Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb
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