Croatia’s importance is growing in the EU refugee arrival management, as it hosts the EU border in the Balkans, which makes it a crucial transit destination of the so-called Balkan route. Consequently, Croatian refugee policy is to be taken in great consideration.
Since 1992, Croatia is a party to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as to the 1967 Protocol. The national implementation of an asylum system in compliance with agreed international obligations had also played a crucial role in Croatia’s trajectory towards the EU. As a matter of fact, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement signed in 2001 by Croatia included also provisions on cooperation with the EU member states in matters of asylum, as well as implementation of national protection standards in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In 2003, the National Programme for the Accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union included an obligation for the Ministry of Interior to develop an Asylum Act, which was later adopted and entered into force in 2004, right after Croatia was granted the status of candidate to full EU membership. Further domestic laws which have been more recently developed on the basis of EU law include inter alia the Law on Free Legal Aid (2013), the Law on International and Temporary Protection (2015, amended in 2017), and the Law on Foreigners (2021).
Croatian legal framework shows that domestic regulations on the implementation of international protection do exist, while the success rate of asylum application to Croatia is still worryingly low. As a matter of fact, between 1997 and 2004 (while the Act on the Movement and Stay of Aliens was still in effect before being repealed by the Asylum Act) all 362 asylum applications lodged were rejected, while only 117 out of 4,478 asylum seekers were granted international protection between 2004 and 2014. What is more, Croatian police have been knowingly reported to be illegally pushing migrants back to Bosnia-Herzegovina violating, among others, these people’s right to claim asylum.