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News 07 Sep 15

Croatia Prepares For a Rise in Refugees

Although Croatia is not on the main migration through the Balkans, authorities are readying for a rise in numbers, and for the possible arrival of 3,200 refugees allocated to Croatia under an EU quota plan.

Sven Milekic
Refugees waiting for a train in Macedonia.

Croatia is preparing to receive up to 3,200 refugees and migrants as part of an EU plan to share over 160,000 refugees and migrants currently in Italy, Hungary and Greece around the EU countries.

Under the quota plan, to which some EU countries object, Croatia would have to accommodate 3,200 refugees and migrants, three times more than was initially proposed in May, when a figure of 1,062 refugees and asylum seekers was mentioned.

As yet, Croatia has not been hit by the wave of migrants crossing the Balkans by land and sea towards Germany. Only 720 people applied for asylum this year and of these 720 requests, only 40 were granted, while 21 were given official state protection.

Drago Zuparic Iljic, from the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, told BIRN that the Croatian Interior Ministry, the Red Cross and other organizations have been preparing for months for a "reallocation and resettlement scheme" that could receive all the 3,200 refugees in question without too many problems.

“However, all the other problems on what to do after basic admission remain," he warned.

"There are questions such as how to integrate these people into Croatian society, if they decide to stay longer in Croatia; about teaching them Croatian and offering them employment and managing their situation on a longer term,” he said.

He also warned that the final number of refugees would likely be larger.

Croatia's central coordinating body, the National Protection and Rescue Directorate, says it has a potential capacity to hold up to 10,000 people temporarily.

The number of migrants entering Croatia meanwhile could rise sharply if the closure of the Hungarian border with Serbia results in the current migration route being diverted.

According to Zuparic Iljic, refugees will either enter Croatia from Serbia and then cross through northeast Croatia to Hungary or go through Bosnia and then Croatia into Slovenia and then westwards.

Visiting a coast guard ship rescuing refugees from the Mediterranean in August, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the country stoody ready to help “people in pursuit of a better life.

“[They came] because they were persecuted and poor and because they want the right to a better life. It is up to us to help them as much as we can,” the premier added.

“I think these people should be given the opportunity to work, to create, to pay taxes, to contribute, since for sure they won’t and shouldn’t go back,” he said, offering a welcome to refugees to stay for longer if they wished.

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