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Background Information | Croatia |

Croatia Background Information Historical Developments Migration Policies The Immigrant Population Citizenship Integration and Integration Policies Flight and Asylum Irregular Migration Current Developments and Future Challenges Links and References

Background Information

Pascal Goeke

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Croatia (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/3.0/de/


Since the 19th century, Croatia has had comprehensive experience under different constitutional constructions and territorial demarcations with migration, asylum and displacement. To be emphasized are the overseas migration in the 19th century, the increasing migration in the direction of the northern and western European states in the early 20th century, the subsequent inclusion in the system of the European recruitment migration in the second half of the 20th century as well as the various migration and refugee flows connected to the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. Croatia can be equally described as a land of emigration, immigration, transit, and remigration as well as a country of both origin and destination for asylum seekers and displaced persons.

Background InformationCroatia

Capital: Zagreb
Official language: Croatian in Latin script
Area: 56,594 km²
Population (mid 2011): 4,403,000
Population density: 77.8 inhabitants/km²
Natural population growth rate (2011): -2.2%
Foreign population: 0.59%
Working population (2011): 1,724,000, of which 1,492,000 are employed and 232,000 are unemployed
Unemployment rate (November 2012): 17.3%
Religions (2011): Catholic 86.3%, Orthodox 4.4%, Muslim 1.5%, Atheist 3.8%, other 1.5%, not specified 2.7%*

* All data is from publications by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics. Differences between various publications by the office are possible. I thank Vera Hanewinkel and Jochen Oltmer for corrections and inquiries which hopefully have led to clarification and Karolina Novinšćak and the staff at UNHCR in Zagreb for their quick and profound information.

In comparison with the past, at times, turbulent migrations, current migration activities represent themselves in absolute and relative numbers as rather insignificant. To understand the development until today and the current migration phenomena as well as to perhaps predict future developments, three different migratory phenomena must be differentiated between: First to be mentioned are those migration movements that stand in connection with the former Yugoslavia and the then recruitment of labor migrants to the western and northern European states, out of which transnational migration patterns have developed to a lesser extent. Secondly, the asylum seeker flows during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s and their long term consequences developed their own dynamic. Thirdly new migration patterns have emerged whose extent is currently still minor and which are less to be understood as stemming from Croatia’s history but stand in connection with the global developments of migration and politics. The fact that Croatia is in line to receive full EU membership on 1 July 2013 is the clearest sign of this Europeanization and globalization. Public opinion in Croatia about these migration movements is consistently ambivalent. The Croatian citizens who have left the country at various time periods and are to be found all over the world today are looked upon with pride and nostalgia. One places, hesitantly but increasingly, blame on himself for the displacement of people, in particular the Serbian population from Krajina and Eastern Slavonia, and looks with ambivalence at those Croatians who did not migrate yet live, however, outside the current state borders, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the context of EU-membership, there is hope of a continuing convergence with the European partner countries, though Croatians are also concerned about their own identity.



  1. Goeke (2007a); Novinšćak (2007; 2012).

  2. The term transnational migration pattern points to the phenomenon that a (likely increasing) part of migration movements cannot be described as a sequence of departure, migration and integration, but instead is to recognize that some migrants permanently orientate their lifestyle around at least two places or nations as horizons of possibilities. This implies several migrations in a lifetime. The structural foundation for this development is discussed in the broad term of globalization. The phenomenon of transnational migration makes it clear that a variety of social systems (e.g. the economy, science) cannot be distinctly bound to a single nation state and have begun to emancipate themselves from national standards (cf. Bommes 2003).

  3. Cf. in addition the empirical studies by e.g. Čapo Žmegač (2005, 2007); Goeke (2007b).

  4. Blitz (2005); Goeke (2007c).


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Dr. Pascal Goeke is research assistant at the Department of Geography of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Email: E-Mail Link: