More than 100 million people have left their homes due to wars, violence, or persecution. To raise awareness about the extremely vulnerable position they are in, on the initiative of the United Nations, June 20th is observed as the World Refugee Day.. According to UNHCR data, there are currently over 100 million individuals worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to wars, violence, or persecution.

The global theme of this year’s World Refugee Day is “Hope Far From Home,” emphasizing the need for successful integration into the societies where refugees have found safety. In addition to providing necessary assistance and support, integration is an important means of protecting the human rights of refugees.

Active participation in communities is the most effective way to support refugees, while also enabling them to contribute to the countries where they have found a new home using their own abilities and knowledge.

Due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, a large number of displaced persons from Ukraine sought refuge in Croatia, where they found support and solidarity. Our institution has been involved in the processes related to the protection and realization of the rights of all persons displaced from Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict.

For example, we have emphasized the necessity of developing plans for long-term and adequate accommodation and housing, integrating children into the education system, ensuring primary healthcare and effective psychosocial protection and assistance, and facilitating access to the labor market.

Individuals displaced from Ukraine still have significant needs for assistance and support in the realization of their various rights, primarily in the form of language learning as a prerequisite for successful integration, as well as the recognition of their professional qualifications. According to the “Svoja” association, which works on the integration of the refugees from Ukraine in Croatia, and with which the Ombudswoman recently held a meeting, around 75% of displaced individuals from Ukraine hold university diplomas. However, due to the lengthy process of diploma recognition, they are employed in less demanding jobs, even though their expertise could be utilized in occupations that are in demand in our country, particularly in the healthcare sector.

Protection of the human rights of refugees, not including individuals from Ukraine who can obtain temporary protection status, involves ensuring access to the right to seek asylum and facilitating safe border crossings for all individuals who have been forced to leave their countries due to wars, violence, or persecution.

There is still a lack of well-designed public policies focused on the integration of migrants granted international protection who are residing in Croatia, as well as Croatian language courses, which are prerequisites for successful integration. Additionally, there is a need for information provision about the available mechanisms of rights protection, both related to employment and other aspects of social life.

It is necessary to develop an Action Plan for the integration of individuals granted international protection, as the previous plan expired in 2019. Therefore, in the Ombudswoman’s Report for 2022, we recommended the adoption of the new Action Plan. The City of Zagreb serves as a positive example, as it adopted an Action Plan for the integration of asylum seekers and individuals with approved international protection for 2022, becoming the first city in Croatia to implement such a policy.

World Refugee Day has been observed since 2001 and was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which provided guidelines for the treatment of persons fleeing persecution.

More information and recommendations on this topic are available in the Ombudswoman’s Report for 2022: Chapter on the Rights of Displaced Persons from Ukraine, Chapter on Discrimination based on Race or Ethnic Origin (Migrants), and Chapter on Asylum Seekers and Irregular Migrants.