In Croatia, refuge and asylum are matters that are strongly influenced by the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s and increasingly more considerably by the closer partnership with the EU in the 21st century. Accordingly, the after effects of the Yugoslav Wars on the one hand and the current immigration of refugees and the asylum policies directed at it on the other hand should be differentiated between. The long-term effects of the war alone are presently numerically meaningful. In January, 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted 24,301 people in Croatia and 85,402 people from Croatia as people to whom it felt itself obliged ('Population of Concern'). Only with a few of these people is the status legally clear (partly due to e.g. the status 'returned refugee' being connected with high restrictions). More frequent are the cases in which people e.g. are threatened by statelessness or are waiting for the possibility to return and are exactly because of this observed by the UNHCR. Table 6 gives information about the internal breakdown of these overall numbers.
Table 6: Snapshot of the refugee situation in January 2012
|Refugees and displaced persons in Croatia||Refugees and displaced persons from Croatia|
|Returned refugees (in 2011)||439||439|
|Returned internal refugees (in 2011)||67||67|
Source: UNHCR: Externer Link: www.unhcr.org/pages/49e48d7d6.html# (3-1-2013)
Right of Asylum
The first right to asylum in Croatia was enacted in 2004. This establishment of the right to asylum, as well as its configuration, was clearly influenced by the conditions of the targeted EU-membership. With regard to chapter 24 of the Acquis Communitaire (justice, freedom and security), Croatia was obliged to adopt European Community law, or rather to harmonize their own legislation with European law, the demands of the Geneva Convention, as well as with the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Two years after the enactment of the law, in 2006, the right to asylum was granted for the first time. The right to asylum provides different protection statuses and integration measures. It regulates questions of stay, housing, work, health care and education, grants religious freedom, the right of family reunification, the right to access a legal system as well as social support and integration help.
The Number of Asylum Applicants
The number of asylum seekers has thus far been low, even though it has risen most recently. According to Šabić et al., by 6 October 2011, 1,539 people had applied for asylum (the numbers vary slightly from source to source).
Table 7: Number of asylum applications in Croatia
Source: UNHCR (2012), p. 20
In comparison with 44 other European and non-European industrial nations, Croatia held 27th place in 2011 if the number of asylum applicants is correlated with the total population, and 28th place if the gross domestic product per capita is used comparatively.