An immediate setting up of a reception and assistance mechanism is the first step in providing help to the refugees fleeing Ukraine. The second is the provision of rights.
Some of the rights refugees from Ukraine are entitled to under the temporary protection status in line with the current EU legislation include the access to suitable accommodation or housing, employment, the basic amenities, medical care covering at least emergency care and essential treatment of illness, as well as access to education for persons under 18.
Having fled the atrocities of war, they must be provided with safety and protection in Croatia. It is crucial that they are provided with all of the necessary rights from the moment of arrival and that those rights are implemented in practice.
Special attention needs to be given to vulnerable groups – children, including unaccompanied minors, the seriously ill, the elderly and the infirm, persons with disabilities, pregnant persons, single parents with underage children, victims of trafficking, etc.
All persons with the temporary protection status need to be provided with medical care covering at least emergency care and essential treatment of illness. We suggest adopting the legislative amendments necessary to broaden that scope.
To facilitate rights implementation and avoid possible obstacles, it would be beneficial to:
- enter all temporary protection beneficiaries into Croatia’s Central Health Care Information System
This would help prevent the issue occasionally faced by asylum and subsidiary protection beneficiaries in Croatia: physicians refusing to provide medical care to them due to not being sufficiently informed about the provisions regulating the financing of health care services for these groups of patients. Thus, along with temporary protection beneficiaries, it would be useful to also enter all members of these two groups into the Central Health Care Information System.
- provide translation
Not being able to communicate with the health care service providers can result in problems with receiving the adequate level of medical and other types of assistance – a situation that already experienced by asylum and international protection beneficiaries in Croatia. Thus, the timely provision of translation services needs to be organized for the persons arriving from Ukraine and seeking temporary protection in Croatia in all language they are using, in the form of either providing the services of live translators or, in cases when this is not possible, by utilizing a video/audio translation service.
Education (including the recognition of diplomas and qualifications)
Apart from elementary and secondary education, it would be beneficial to grant access to the persons fleeing Ukraine to higher education as well. The recognition of their diplomas and qualifications needs to be organized following the procedures currently in use for asylum and international protection beneficiaries in Croatia.
Work and Employment
There are multiple possible benefits resulting from granting the persons under temporary protection the possibility to enter employment: the acquisition of the rights stemming from employment, preventing long-term dependence on the social welfare system, as well as enabling regular contacts with the remainder of the society – the latter being an important precondition for successful integration.
Moreover, being able to enter employment matching their qualifications now can make the transition into their previous lives easier after the war has ended. At the same time, they can contribute to our labor market with their knowledge and skills. However, the precondition for the latter is the availability of job vacancies as well as available places in kindergartens for their children.
The Right to Accommodation and Basic Amenities
Persons seeking temporary protection in Croatia need to be granted social welfare benefits and services if they are prevented from entering the labor market or until they manage to do so. We suggest that the same conditions that apply to asylum and subsidiary protection beneficiaries and their family members in Croatia be employed when it comes to refugees arriving from Ukraine.
Currently, the Act on International and Temporary Protection grants the persons under temporary protection the rights to the basic amenities and to adequate accommodation (granted that they do not have any financial assets of their own). However, clearer definitions of “appropriate accommodation”, “one’s own assets” and “basic amenities” are needed.
If the Social Welfare Act were to be implemented to the beneficiaries of temporary protection from Ukraine, it would grant them a one-of financial benefit in the amount of 2,500 to 3,500 kuna annually and the right to accommodation, but not the right to receive the guaranteed minimum allowance or other social benefits and services.
Finally, the response to the current situation must be based on solidarity and support and cooperation, not only between the public administration bodies, but also with the independent institutions such as the Ombudswoman and the special ombudspersons, as well as with the regional and local self-government units, the business sector and the civil society, is the key of good preparation for it.
 Under the Act on International and Temporary Protection (Official Gazette no. 70/15, 127/17), vulnerable groups include persons deprived of their legal capacity, children, unaccompanied minors, the elderly and the infirm, seriously ill persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant persons, single parents with underage children, persons with mental illnesses, trafficking victims, victims of torture, rape, or other physical, psychological or sexual violence, as well as victims of female genital mutilation.
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