In the period from 14 to 15 December 2015, in Osijek, a two-day Annual Conference on International Protection was organized by the Ministry of the Interior (MUP), UNHCR and the Croatian Red Cross.
The Annual Conference was attended by the following stakeholders: representatives of several ministries, representatives of UNHCR in Zagreb and representatives of mobile teams of UNHCR Sisak and Knin, representatives of Centre for Social Welfare in Slavonski Brod and Vinkovci and numerous non-governmental, voluntary and international organizations. The Conference was also attended by the Civil Rights Project Sisak, which is one of the implementing partners of UNHCR for many years.
The Assistant Minister of the Interior, Ines Krajčak, reported that, since the beginning of the refugee crisis in September 16, through transit centers Opatovac and Slavonski Brod, more than 501,000 refugees had passed through. She also said that “Croatia chose a humane approach, not to build any fences and not to set wire at the border. We encountered a number of problems in this approach, and sometimes a lack of understanding, but we persist in our decision”, said Krajčak and added that” the mass influx of refugees “strengthened the cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior and international and non-governmental organizations “. She pointed out that only 20 people applied for asylum in Croatia because of very small knowledge about Croatia and most specifically, they are determined to go to other countries in which they have family members already living there. This does not mean that some of them will not want to come back, she added.
Executive President of the Croatian Red Cross, Robert Markt said that there were currently more than 40 conflicts ongoing in the world, because of which about 60 million people decided to change their place of residence. He pointed out that Croatia, since the beginning of the refugee crisis, positioned itself on the map of human countries, what is recognized not only in Croatia but also at the international level, especially at the last week’s International Conference of the Red Cross in Geneva.
He concluded that the concerted action of all institutions, organizations and volunteers, from the beginning, sent a clear message to all refugees that the space they are entering is the space of humanity. But, he said, the overall work is not finished because migrants are still coming.
The representative of the UNHCR in Croatia Terence Pike said that Croatia passed the test of solidarity with a high score in the refugee crisis which is ongoing in Europe since 2013, when the refugees started to come across the Mediterranean, with continued intensification of the conflict in Iraq and Syria and conflicts and instability in Afghanistan, Eritrea and other areas.
He concluded that Croatia has set high standards in dealing with refugees and migrants, that there are many more challenges to face and that UNHCR will continue its activities to help asylum seekers to integrate into Croatian society.
Experiences from the field, with a great empathy note, were presented by the representatives of civil society and international organizations such as UNICEF, IOM, the Croatian Law Centre, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas, Adra, Samaritan’s Purse, CBA, Save the Children, REMAR and IHA, Magna and others.
At the end of the Conference, a brief review of the return of refugees to Croatia, and the Regional Housing Programme was given.
To conclude, we can say that this year’s refugee crisis, which has hit the region and the entire European Union, warned of many open questions and unresolved situation at the international level and in international relations, but Croatia has, however, shown a humane approach and has set high standards in migrant and refugee treatment, what was recognized by domestic and international public.
We are proud that, in the year which is almost over, we achieved great progress in the field of applicants for international protection, persons under international protection, statelessness or undetermined nationality, and returnees.