Knjižnica Filozofskog fakulteta
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Integration of persons under international protection in Croatian society


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Jurković, Rahela. (2018). Integration of persons under international protection in Croatian society. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij etnologije i kulturne antropologije) [mentor Rajković Iveta, Marijeta].

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Integration of persons under international protection is one of the current political and social issues in the European Union and Croatia, as its member state but also a country that, in autumn and winter 2015/2016 became part of the migrants’ movements across, what the European Commission calls, the Western Balkan route. The persons under international protection are the refugees who have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection in Croatia. Their integration in society depends upon the rights they, as refugees, have in the Republic of Croatia and how these rights are implemented, as well as upon the support and assistance in integration provided to them by institutions, organisations, local communities and citizens. The research approach used in this dissertation is the ethnography of particular, that served as a basis for getting deeper and more comprehensive insights and answers to the following research goals: finding out what integration means to those who got international protection in Croatia and what are their experiences of integration, how, according to them, the integration-related legislation has been implemented, and how non-governmental organisations and individuals participate in and support the process of their integration into Croatian society. The research has been based on the grounded theory and traditional qualitative ethnographic methods: field research, observation, participant observation and semi-structured interviews. The role of local organisations in the integration of persons under international protection has been also researched within two case studies: the culinary cooperative Taste of Home and the football club NK Zagreb 041. The research that is foundation of this work was conducted between February 2015 and September 2017. By the end of the research period, according to the official data, Croatia granted international protection to 327 persons. Some of them were the persons whom I interviewed one or several times, and some of them I followed during the period of several months or during the whole period of the research. My informants are persons of different educational background (from accomplished elementary school to accomplished faculty), different occupations (cook, sportsman, musician, professional truck driver, lawyer, housewife, activist), different age (from 19 to 42) and different situations they were living in Croatia (as single persons, in family or in a homeless shelter). Their countries of origin are: Afghanistan, Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Syria and Somalia. Most of them went through traumatic life experiences on their way from their countries of origin to Croatia, followed by difficult times spent in asylum seekers centre while waiting for the decision about asylum. In that centre they spent from one month to more than a year. The traumatic experiences and memories of refugees are not acknowledged nor taken care of by legislation that is the backbone of Croatian integration policy. For my informants, refugees, integration mainly means adaptation to a new culture, learning local language and getting to know the culture of the society they got asylum in. For none of them, except for a Syrian family, Croatia was a destination country, and even the Syrian family came to Croatia within the framework of the relocation programme of the European Union (EU), that was “distributing” asylum seekers from Greece to other EU countries. Some of my informants did not like the term integration as it constantly reminded them that they were refugees, the status which most of them did not like to have and identity they mostly did not want to accept. Instead, they wanted to be regarded as human beings, and not as a special category of asylum seekers or asylees. One informant said it in this way: “I want to be regarded as any other Croatian citizen who lives here and goes through same difficulties as other people. I want to talk about what is going on in Croatia, and not about asylum seeking any more”. The results of the qualitative research that I conducted have shown that integration is a dynamic process that depends, on the one hand, on the quality of the institutional infrastructure that Croatian society provides to people under international protection and, on the other hand, on the individuals who got the protection. It has been shown that the persons under international protection (refugees) have a core influence on the success of their interaction with other members of the community, of whom the key ones have been members of the host society. The institutional infrastructure of integration consists of the legislation that grants rights to refugees and institutions which implement that legislation. A person who got the international protection in Croatia and is recognised by the state as a refugee is entitled to the same rights as Croatian citizens, except the right to vote on national or local elections. The research has shown that the main Croatian legislative act that grants the rights to refugees and also refers to their integration in Croatian society, Act on International and Temporary Protection (Official gazette 70/2015), has been partially implemented. Its implementation is the most problematic in the areas that refugees consider as essential and having the top priority for integration: provision of state supported Croatian language and culture courses. Learning Croatian language and culture, together with exercising the rights to the health care and access to the education system, have proved to be the weakest loops of the chain that the state is legally obliged to provide to the persons it granted the international protection. The courses of Croatian language, history and culture, whose attendance for persons under international protection is even a legal obligation, have not been organised regularly, and even when, in rare occasions, organised, they were provided within insufficient 70 hours (for comparison: the Netherlands provided 600 hours and Norway initial 300 hours of the integration programmes that mainly involved language courses). Other areas of integration that have shown deficiency in law implementation have been the access to health and access to educational system. Legislation that exists “on paper” but is actually not implemented sheds light not only on life of refugees in Croatia during the researched period, but also on the functioning of the institutions, and therefore the Croatian society itself. In the researched case, Croatian legislation was not implemented fully or its implementation depended on the political context, while the responsibility of institutions in some cases almost did not exist. Inefficient bureaucracy and administrative barriers that my informants encountered in Croatia, which they could not easily understand without explanations that their new friends from the host society were giving them, are depicted in the example that one informant gave me, describing a situation in the hospital: “To the one who is in pain, who is sick and urgently needs medical care, you say to come next week? So, the person can die and you do not care for strangers? First and foremost, it is necessary to take care of sick persons, and procedures should come later… That doctor did not care about us… somebody could die because of too many procedures”. The research has also shown that people under international protection do not always want to be viewed as a special category of asylum seekers or asylees, and that they want to be accepted only as human beings. All the informants wanted to participate in the society and work, while finding a job that would enable them to cover their basic needs proved to be the next problematic area of integration. Non-governmental organisations and individuals, from or outside these organisations, were most helpful to them in finding a job. Certain organisations and collectives participating in the integration of refugees have shown to be helpful to certain asylees, and it can be concluded that all of them are useful in integration. Non-governmental and international organisations most frequently referred to by the informants as the ones who assisted them in integration, especially in job search, in Croatian society were the following ones (in alphabetic order): Are You Syrious, Centre for Peace Studies, Croatian Red Cross, Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma Zagreb. Some informants, referring to their experiences in other countries, have suggested that there should be more organisations that help refugees and asylum seekers, and that they should employ more people instead of relying on the volunteers and their free time, that these organisations usually engage in their work of assisting integration of refugees. They should also apply an individual approach to people, what some of them claim to do, but the research has shown that in reality the individual approach to refugees is often not happening. Furthermore, organisations or groups of people that do not have integration as one of their goals are beneficial in integration as well, such as sport clubs. Football and cricket, i.e. sport in general, showed to be areas of the greatest potential for integration because sport does not divide people and, while playing sport, everyone speaks the same language. Food, or its preparation and consumption, has also proved to be a means capable of connecting people that would otherwise not approach each other and start communicating. Researched case studies, the culinary cooperative Taste of the Home and the football club NK Zagreb 041, have therefore shown to be organisations with a significant potential to create spaces where people under international protection could find something like a family environment, what most of the informants lacked in their life in asylum. Of many integration dimensions that migration scholars refer to in their work, interaction dimension showed to be the most important for refugees that are supposed to integrate into Croatian society: the interaction, that refers to their connections to local people and new friends from the host society, helps them in many areas that integration involves. Besides that, this research acknowledges the importance of existential dimension of integration, that other scholars do not recognise as such, probably as they mostly conudcted their research in wealthier countries of Europe or other parts of the “developed” world. The existential dimension of integration into Croatian society refers to learning Croatian language and possibility of getting a job that would cover core needs and basic life costs that a person who got international protection in Croatia encounters once the state’s assistance in covering the costs of rent of apartment expires, two years after the international protection is granted to the person. This research has also opened further research questions regarding the integration of refugees in Croatia and it has demonstrated, on the one side, the need to include Croatia in broader European research projects on integration and, on the other side, the need to involve cultural anthropologists in multidisciplinary research teams, with an aim of comprehending all the facets that the integration of refugees into society involves.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: person under international protection, refugee, asylee, asylum, integration
Subjects: Ethnology and cultural anthropology
Departments: Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
Supervisor: Rajković Iveta, Marijeta
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij etnologije i kulturne antropologije
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2018 09:35
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2018 09:37

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