On November 24, 2022, CRP Sisak organized a panel discussion on the topic “Discrimination of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia”, via the Zoom platform, and the panel discussion was attended by:
- Milana Kreća, CRP Sisak
- Aleksandar Kojić, CRP Sisak
- Danijela Žmukić, CRP Sisak
- Ivona Perković, CRP Sisak
- Dino Sivić, CRP Sisak
- Josipa Kovačević, CRP Sisak
- Daša Poredoš Lavor, GIMGS
- Tihomir Lavor, GIMGS
- Kristina Benić Belavić, UNHCR
- Ivana Canjuga, “Bez Granica”
- Igor Lekić, Office of the Ombudsman
- Nenad Međo, Ombudsman BiH
- Danijela Malešević Plavšić, “Vaša prava BiH”, Prijedor office
- Goran Dragišić, “Vaša prava BiH”, Banja Luka office
- Pavica Gregurinčić, Police department Sisak-Moslavina County
- Mirjana Cindrić, Border police station Novska
- Milena Čalić-Jelić, Serb National Council
Ad.1. Presentation of the work of CRP Sisak within the project “Center for Integration of Foreigners
in the Republic of Croatia”
Ad. 2. Regulating the status of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia based on Decisions of the
Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia and recommendations of the
Ad.3. The status of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia with special reference to:
– determining the identity of citizens of third countries (RS and Bosnia and Herzegovina)
– conditions for permanent residence and long-term residence in the Republic of Croatia
– long-term temporary stays of third-country nationals due to shortages in means of maintenance and unregulated health insurance
Ad. 4. Discussion – questions and conclusions
Ad.1. Moderator of the panel discussion, Aleksandar Kojić, opened the panel discussion, greeted the present participants and briefly presented the work of CRP Sisak within the project “Center for the Integration of Foreigners in the Republic of Croatia” and pointed out that the goal of this discussion is to discuss the problems and ways of solving the status of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia with special reference to the problems of issuing travel documents to citizens of third countries, who do not have an identification document of their country of origin (RS and Bosnia and Herzegovina), as well as to the problem of long-term temporary stays, where the right to permanent residence cannot be exercised due to a lack of means of support and unregulated health insurance, as well as other issues related to regulating the status of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia. He also pointed out that the goal of the panel discussion is to exchange experiences regarding the resolution of the status of foreigners (Roma, Serb returnees, seekers of international protection, refugees resettled from Turkey through the resettlement program, stateless persons and at risk of losing their citizenship), both in the Republic of Croatia and in the region.
Then A. Kojić gave the floor to the president of CRP Sisak, Milana Kreća, who briefly referred to our work within the project “Center for the Integration of Foreigners in the Republic of Croatia” and stated that the panel discussion was part of the activities of the aforementioned project, and that the Center for the integration of foreigners, a new model of protection and support for foreigners through unified legal, psychosocial and other services, as well as that with this project we strive to support the process of integration of foreigners into Croatian society. Milana Kreća briefly pointed out that CRP Sisak has recorded over 27,000 client in its database to date, a large part of which relates to exactly these issues that it deals with and why the Center for the Integration of Foreigners was opened, and our goal is to start a discussion about the perceived problems of foreigners.
Ad. 2. The panel discussion continued with a discussion on the topic of regulating the status of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia based on the Decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia and the recommendations of the Ombudsman, which was discussed by the adviser for legal affairs in the Office of the Ombudsman, Igor Lekić. I. Lekić stated that the Ombudsman also deals with monitoring the issue of regulating the status of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia, and briefly presented the thoughts and recommendations that the Ombudsman gives in her annual reports to the Croatian Parliament. I. Lekić notes that it is very difficult to use the term “foreigners” for these people because they are mostly people who have lived in the Republic of Croatia for many years and do not really feel like foreigners because they belong there. He further states that the Constitutional Court has issued several opinions on these issues, for example, the first opinion was issued in 2008 in which transitional elements are mentioned, however, these opinions are not sufficiently valued in practice. In such cases, respect for the family and the right to family life is completely forgotten. In addition, he points out that the Constitutional Court stated in its opinion that the question of the citizenship of these persons turns into a question of the protection of human rights, and that is certainly the question of the Ombudsman, which she points out to the competent state authorities. He pointed out that a big problem for these people is obtaining travel documents of the country of origin due to not having an identification document of the country of origin. As an example, he mentioned the case of Bedri Hoti – failure to determine the citizenship of a person from the transition period, who only managed to get status in the Republic of Croatia based on the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Then I. Lekić noted that there was no procedure for erasing citizenship in the Republic of Croatia, but that after the independence of the Republic of Croatia, many people’s residence was erased, so they could not regulate permanent residence after that (now permanent residence).
He further stated that in the report for 2021, the Ombudsman repeated the recommendation for these persons and instructed that in such cases the decision and opinion of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia should be referred to, as well as that there is a need to find new solutions for these persons living in Republic of Croatia for 30 years and their descendants.
After that, all participants were invited to a discussion about what was presented, and Mirjana Cindrić from Border police station Novska spoke and briefly referred to the case of Bedri Hoti, stating that Bedri H. received the first guarantee in 1993, but at the time of the Homeland War he could not complete the release from the citizenship of Kosovo.
After that, Danijela M.P., a lawyer from the association “Vaša prava BiH” (VP), Prijedor office, came forward for the discussion and stated that she has constant cooperation with the CRP Sisak, she further pointed out that there have been returnees, refugees, displaced persons in her area for over twenty years and they are one of the categories of beneficiaries and refugees from the Republic of Croatia. She stated that the “Vaša Prava BiH” association helps them regulate their stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the most difficult cases remain unsolved, and that they have one person who is homeless. She stated that they have very good cooperation with the Consulate of the Republic of Croatia, but that the problem is in the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia and that is due to identity verification.
After that, Goran Dragišić from the VP BiH, Banja Luka Office came forward for the discussion and said that they were directly involved in this issue, that there was one group of people left without any documents, and because of this, their temporary stay in BiH could not be regulated. An additional problem is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very complex country in which regulations change very often, and they are adopted at the level of the Republic of Srpska and the Federation. He believes that practice and regulations for these categories of people should be changed.
Then Nenad Međo from the Office of the Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina came forward for the discussion and spoke about the corrective role of the Ombudsman in society, mentioning that they are familiar with the pending cases that are discussed by the Office of the VP of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He notes that BiH is also faced with the problem of the migration crisis because it has a long land border. He talks about regulating the status of foreigners in BiH and that it is difficult to call these people foreigners because they have been in BiH for over twenty years.
After that, A. Kojić invited the participants to comment on the statement of the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, which allegedly recently began to be applied in practice, and refers to the issuance of travel documents for citizens of third countries who do not have an identification document of their country of origin.
Igor Lekić from the office of the Ombudsman called for a comment, and referred to people who have a problem with issuing a travel document for the Republic of Serbia due to not having an identification document from the RS, and who would have to go to their home country and thus leave the Republic of Croatia and their family, and maybe even stay without existing residence in the Republic of Croatia, and stated that his Office requested a statement from the Ombudsman of the RS and that they received a statement that such persons can prove their identity in the process of issuing travel documents with statements from family members who have identification documents from their country of origin, and which statement can be given in the RS Embassy, that this practice has recently started and time will tell how it will unfold.
Then Danijela from “Vaša prava BiH”, Prijedor office, presented the practice of the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in BiH, which was used until some time ago, but was corrupted and stopped. However, it should be continued.
Ad.3. At the end of the panel discussion, Nenad Međo from the Office of the Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina took the floor, thanked for the invitation to participate and suggested further cooperation. Danijela M.P. from “Vaša prava BiH”, Prijedor office also thanked and asked us to provide her with the Legal Analysis of the Law on Foreigners. Also, Goran Dragišić from the “Vaša prava BiH”, Banja Luka office thanked all the participants for their opinions and recommendations, and that in the future, he would address the Office of the Ombudsman in Zagreb more often.
CRP end the panel discussion with the conclusion that work on this issue must be continued, and that we emphasize:
– establishment of a procedure for determination of statelessness status and, in connection with that, statelessness as a basis for discrimination;
– final resolution of the issue of long-term temporary stays in the Republic of Croatia;
– regulating the issue of one-time payments for health insurance, that is, for entry into the health insurance system.
It is necessary to continue to warn about these problems, to inform the Ombudsman, who will indicate this in annual reports and give recommendations for solving them, which would ultimately improve the position of foreigners in the Republic of Croatia, especially those “foreigners” who live in the Republic of Croatia more than thirty years.
In Sisak, 24 November 2022
Minutes taken by: