Croatia: "Ukrainians are ideal migrants"

In Zagreb, as in the rest of Europe, refugees from Ukraine are treated much better than those who came from Arab and African countries, Serbian Politika writes.

The authorities are ready to provide Ukrainians with a decent life in a new country. And this is not only a manifestation of humanism. With the help of these migrants, the country hopes to solve its problems.

According to the latest data, about 11 thousand people arrived in Croatia from Ukraine, but the numbers change from day to day. The authorities have taken a number of concrete measures to accept these people and make it easier for them to integrate into Croatian society. In accordance with the decision of the European Union that its members should provide temporary asylum to refugees, on March 7, the Croatian government adopted a decree granting temporary asylum to IDPs from Ukraine. As stated in the government, by doing so they want to provide people not only with housing, but also with medical care, as well as include them in the system of preschool and school education, the labor market. In general, the authorities are ready to provide Ukrainians with a decent life in a new country.

It remains to be seen exactly how many people arrived in Croatia temporarily, and how many of them will remain. However, the authorities reported that at the moment the state is ready to receive about 20,000 people. This is twice as much as the number of Ukrainian refugees now. Now there are three receiving centers where Ukrainians are accommodated for 48 hours, while documents, a medical card and other necessary things are being processed. From there they move either to the private sector or to one of 33 collective centers located in different regions of Croatia: Istria, Brac, Nova Gradiska, Vukovar and so on.

Unlike the last wave of refugees, Ukrainians are not gathered in only one or two cities. In addition, the state pays refugees accommodation in private apartments and utility bills. Owners who have provided their property for refugees to live will be paid a remuneration of almost 3,600 kunas per month (about 475 euros). All these are quite specific measures to help refugees from Ukraine, and, by the way, such measures were not taken before, when other refugees came to Croatia.

We are glad that we are not near the border, because people “flow like water” into such countries. They come to us by personal agreement: either through non-governmental organizations that organize transportation, or on their own. Therefore, the first stage of reception works well, since there is no large flow“, – Ivan Blazhevich, director of the Solidarity Foundation, said in an interview with Politika, who, together with representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Civil Protection, the Red Cross, UNHCR and non-governmental organizations, is a member of the national coordinating committee for the integration of refugees in society.

The Solidarity Foundation is one of the most active associations that help refugees solve pressing issues. This includes language learning, employment support, retraining, additional education, psychological assistance, and assistance in paying rent for a rented apartment … A separate fund for humanitarian aid was also created, thanks to which about 30 thousand euros.

Rally in support of Ukraine in Zagreb (Photo by EPA-EFE/A.Bat)

Despite the great care and solidarity shown by Croatian citizens in helping refugees from Ukraine, administrative obstacles still make it difficult for them to integrate into society.

The most serious problem will be employment, because we do not have a clear and simple procedure for recognition of qualifications and nostrification of diplomas. Let’s say we have one surgeon stationed in Kalobag. 60 kilometers away, in Gospić, there are not enough doctors, but we cannot let this man work just by looking at his photo in a white coat. We must develop a process for the recognition of diplomas. In 2015, Italy developed a simple knowledge test model, and we have a chance to follow suit. But we must act quickly, because in the first wave come people who have money. The poor are the last to arrive. And those who still have some money left will soon spend it” Blazevic says.

Despite the large number of collective centers distributed throughout the country, more than 80% of refugees now live in private housing. “People go where they have friends or family members. There is also a Ukrainian diaspora in Croatia. Some, especially the wealthy, had real estate by the sea, and someone even had a business” Blazevic explains.

There was nothing like this during the last wave of refugees that captured Croatia as well. The route of the refugees was very different from the path of those who arrived from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen… However, the difference in attitudes towards refugees from Ukraine and from Syria is more than obvious. Our interlocutor believes that one of the reasons is mainly fear.

People feel that this conflict is at our gates, and they are afraid that it will affect all of us. Secondly, we feel closer to Ukrainians both because of the color of our skin and because of our faith. In addition, a kind of national mythology affects, because Ukrainians are compared with Croats, and Russians with Serbs. Let me remind you that many citizens of Croatia are returning to old injuries, recalling the events of the last war in our country. Before this was not“, – concludes the director of the Solidarity Foundation.

Political analyst Zharko Puchovski believes that double standards in the approach to refugees are not an indicator, since Croatia “continues to be in the euphoria of supporting the attacked Ukraine.”

This is not so much a problem for Croatia, but, first of all, for Hungary, Poland and the Baltic countries, which have been radically opposed to integration and the general placement of refugees for several years. Now they are at the forefront of supporting refugees from Ukraine. This suggests that Viktor Orban, unfortunately, was at least partly right when he spoke about the Christian elements of the European past and present, which the current authorities consider, according to him, not significant enough. I say “unfortunately” because these “long-term” things, as historians would say, continue to work, and “gentiles” are still worse received than those who are closer to our, that is, Christian, faith, or who at least one race with us. It is clear that this problem exists in Europe“, – says Pukhovsky in an interview with “Politics”.

According to the results of last year’s census, it was found that Croatia suffered a so-called demographic collapse. In the new situation, many see an opportunity to improve the demographic picture in the country. True, few people speak openly about this, likening, for example, the demographer Stepan Shterts, who recently stated: “Ukrainians are ideal migrants for the developed European world, and for Croatia itself.”

Croatia was shocked to learn how few we are. In desperation caused by the depopulation, the authorities will undoubtedly make efforts to replace the deceased citizens and probably do not disdain the population that will arrive from Ukraine.“, says Puchowski.

According to him, we should be glad that these refugees are being helped at least now. True, this approach contrasts unpleasantly with what happened five or six years ago. It is clear that a lot of work remains to be done by those who really want to turn Europe into a worthy community of states, which is not only formally post-imperialist, but actually upholds some new values.

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