On 11 December 2013 in Zagreb, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation in the Republic of Croatia, the Ministry of Public Administration (MPA) and the State Office for Reconstruction and Housing Care (SORHC) co-organised the Workshop on resolving applications for housing care and returnee status. The one-day workshop gathered over a hundred civil servants, civil society representatives and UNHCR staff.
The purpose of the workshop is to address related issues in the process of the first and second instance decisions procedure for housing care and establishing of returnee status. In light of recent legislative changes regulating housing care and returnee status, as well as the new administrative structure responsible for the issuance of decisions, the organiser regard the workshop as an important joint endeavour which would help returnees and refugees to find durable and sustainable solutions stemming both from the Regional Housing Programme as committed at the Donor Conference in Sarajevo in 2012 and from the on-going national Housing Care Programme.
The gathering was addressed by the Head of SORHC, Mirela Stanić Popović who said that “we are all at a juncture in the process of provision of status and housing care to the displaced and need to jointly proceed as of today in taking a pro-active stance towards finding solutions for the beneficiaries”. The OmbudswomanLora Vidović reminded the gathering that “behind the thousands of applications are thousands of families. Human destinies and futures that are in need of a assistance from the authorities whose role is to aid the citizens and respond to their needs and access to rights”. Assistant Minister of Public Administration, Boris Milošević was “pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the workshop which demonstrates the need of, not only transfer of cases from SORHC, but also of the know-how from experts to local administration tasked to provide aid to some of the moist needy citizens in the future”. The UNHCR Representative, Terence Pike who acknowledged the joint efforts and cooperation with the State Office for Reconstruction and Housing Care and welcomed a new stakeholder in the process , the State Administration Offices who are expected to carry immense responsibility when deciding on housing and status applications under the legal framework that provides imperfect solutions. „Today’s workshop gives a prospect for all involved in issues of housing and status to understand profoundly how an administrative procedure and deliberation on sheer facts has far-reaching consequences on one’s future“, Pike said.
The workshop addressed three key topics important for the processes at hand. UNHCR and SORHC jointly presented to the administrative staff and free legal aid providers the legal framework and practice as well as the importance to returnees of regulating returnee status and the revision mechanism. The two co-organisers also gave a run-down on the legal framework and practice in the provision of housing care, decisions and issuing procedures.
Very important element of the overall housing care and status procedure in Croatia is the country’s engagement in the Regional Housing Programme supported by the EU and other donors. SORHC being the focal institution for the overall implementation of the national leg of the programme and UNHCR as the international agent providing assistance in beneficiary selection provided insight in the RHP processes especially the vulnerability criteria under which successful applications are to receive priority administrative treatment. Dejan Kladarin, regional UNHCR liaison officer for the programme underlined the necessity of ending the displacement chapter in the region and said: “The RHP is a remarkable regional initiative and the most important coordinated effort to close the 1991-1995 displacement chapter in the region. However, housing alone is not sufficient, and UNHCR would like to underline the commitment of the four countries – partners in the RHP – enshrined in their Join Declaration of November 2011, to provide all necessary political, material, legal, social and other support required to the displaced population, thus ensuring sustainable solutions”.