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How to get asylum and state protection in Croatia

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UPDATED: 24/03/2022

Generally speaking, if your life would be endangered by returning to your country of origin, you can seek asylum, subsidiary protection, international protection, or temporary protection from the Republic of Croatia. After the protection is approved, you have the right to basic human rights in Croatia including residence, work, health care, and education.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

What the Croatian law says about asylum

In Croatia, international and temporary protection is defined by Zakon o međunarodnoj i privremenoj zaštiti (Law on international and temporary protection) which is available here. This law prescribes:

  • Principles, conditions, and procedure for granting international protection and temporary protection
  • Status, rights, and obligations of applicants for international protection, asylum seekers, aliens under subsidiary protection, and aliens under temporary protection
  • Conditions and procedure for annulment and termination of asylum, subsidiary, and temporary protection.

According to the law, there are 4 statuses of protection including:

  1. Applicant for international protection – A third-country national or a person without nationality who expresses an intention to apply for international protection until the decision on the application is enforceable. The applicant may also be a national of an EU Member State according to the provisions of Protocol 24 of the Ugovor iz Lisabona (Treaty of Lisbon)
  2. Asylum seeker – A refugee within the meaning of the Geneva Convention who meets the requirements for granting asylum
  3. Alien under subsidiary protection – An alien who does not meet the requirement for granting asylum, but they have been granted protection for justified reasons that imply a real risk of suffering serious injustice by returning to their country of origin
  4. Alien under temporary protection – An alien who has been granted temporary protection in case a large number of aliens come to Croatia due to human rights violations in their country of origin related to war or a similar situation, general violence, or internal conflicts.

Who can get asylum and subsidiary protection in Croatia

In Croatia, foreigners can get asylum if they are outside the country of their nationality or usual residence and they have a well-founded fear of persecution given their:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Belonging to a particular social group
  • Political opinion due to which they can’t or don’t want to accept the protection of their country

People who don’t meet the requirements for granting asylum may ask for subsidiary protection. However, there must be justified reasons that show they are going to face a real risk of suffering serious injustice if they return to their country. They are unable or unwilling to accept the protection of their country because of such a risk.

A serious injustice implies:

  • Threat of the death penalty or execution
  • Torture
  • Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Serious and individual threat to the lives of civilians due to arbitrary general violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict

How to ask for international protection in Croatia

When seeking international protection from the Republic of Croatia, you can get free legal help during the process. A list of providers of free legal aid is available here.

It is possible to apply for international protection in 2 ways:

  • During the border control procedure – at the Croatian border crossing
  • At the territory of the Republic of Croatia
    • MUP administration offices and police stations – View list here
    • Shelters for asylum seekers (prihvatilište)

If you entered Croatia illegally from the territory where you have been persecuted according to the Geneva Convention and there is a real risk that you will be exposed to serious injustice by returning to the country of origin, you won’t be punished for the illegal entry or stay. However, you must express your intention to apply for international protection immediately and list valid reasons for the illegal entry or stay.

The request for international protection is submitted directly by taking a statement on the record in the shelters for asylum seekers in Zagreb or Kutina. Depending on your case, it may be possible to make a statement outside of the shelter.

Your request will be forwarded to the Croatian Ministry of the Interior (MUP) and Služba za strance i azil (Aliens and asylum service). They will conduct the first-instance procedure and bring a decision. If you don’t agree with the decision, you can initiate an administrative dispute with the competent administrative court – which is not the same as an appeal.

Rights and obligations of applicants for international protection

In Croatia, applicants for international protection have the right to:

  • Accommodation in a shelter
  • Residence
  • Provided food and clothes
  • Translation of the procedure to the language they speak
  • Information on their rights, obligations, and procedure of the approval of international protection and legal advice
  • Insurance of appropriate material conditions of acceptance
  • Repayment of costs of public transport for the purpose of the international protection procedure
  • Free legal advice in front of the first-instance administrative court
  • Freedom of religion
  • Financial assistance
  • Health care
  • Elementary and secondary school education
  • Work if no decision has been made within 9 months from the day of submitting the request through no fault of the applicant, appointment of guardians to minors, and incapacitated persons in the procedure.

During the application procedure, applicants must:

  • Respect the Constitution, laws, and other regulations of the Republic of Croatia
  • Cooperate with the competent state bodies and act in accordance with their measures and instructions
  • Go through the verification and identification procedure
  • Perform a medical examination
  • Respect the house rules of the shelter
  • Respond to the invitation of the Ministry of the Interior for a hearing and cooperate
  • Stay at the territory of the Republic of Croatia
  • Register changes of the address of stay within 2 days
  • Respect the instructions and measures of the Ministry of Interior on the restriction of their freedom of movement.

Right to residence

Applicants for international protection have the right to reside in Croatia from the day they submit the application until the procedure ends. They have the freedom to move throughout the entire territory of the Republic of Croatia. Their move may be limited in certain cases prescribed by the law.

Applicants will also get an applicant’s card that confirms their right to residence and the address of their stay in Croatia during the procedure. This card doesn’t serve as proof of identity.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance is not available to employed people whose incomes are sufficient for ensuring an appropriate living standard and people with enough financial means. If you have enough money to support yourself, you can reside anywhere in Croatia. However, the Ministry of Interior must agree with your request.

Rights and obligations of asylum and subsidiary protection holders

Foreigners who have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection in Croatia have the right to:

  • Residence
  • Work
  • Health care
  • Education
  • Freedom of religion
  • Free legal aid in drafting a lawsuit and representing before the first-instance administrative court in the case of granting an application in the part granting subsidiary protection and in cases of termination or annulment of international protection
  • Social welfare
  • Help with social assimilation and family reunification with a family member
  • Ownership of real estate according to the Convention from 1951
  • Acquisition of Croatian citizenship according to the Croatian Citizenship Act

People with granted asylum or subsidiary protection must:

Their family members have the same rights.

Right to residence

Foreigners who are granted asylum or subsidiary protection in Croatia have the right to residence in Croatia. They can get free accommodation at the expense of the Croatian state budget for up to 2 years from the day they have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection.

A foreigner who has been granted asylum can get temporary residence in Croatia for up to 5 years. If they meet the requirements of the law, they can apply for travel documents for asylum seekers that may be issued for up to 5 years.

A foreigner who has been granted subsidiary protection can get temporary residence in Croatia for up to 3 years. If they meet the requirements prescribed by the law, they can apply for special travel documents for foreigners that may be issued for up to 2 years.

Family reunification

Family reunification for people with asylum or subsidiary protection may be granted for their:

  • Spouses or non-marital spouses
  • Life partners or informal life partners
  • Minors who didn’t start their own family
  • Adult non-married children who can’t take care of themselves due to their health condition
  • Parents or legal representatives if the asylum/subsidiary protection holder is a minor
  • First-degree relatives in the straight line with whom they lived in a joint household and they take care of them.

Rights and obligations of temporary protection holders

You can get temporary protection of the Republic of Croatia if:

  • You had a residence (prebivalište or boravište) in the country of origin and came directly to Croatia due to the escalating situation
  • You legally resided in Croatia during the escalating situation in the country of origin and your return to the country of origin upon the expiration of the Croatian legal residence is disabled

If you meet these requirements, you can get temporary protection in Croatia for up to a year. It can be prolonged for 6 months at once due to justified reasons, but no longer than for 3 years in total.

Foreigners who are granted temporary protection in Croatia have the right to:

  • Residence
  • Card for foreigners under temporary protection issued for a period of 1 year
  • Basic assets for living and accommodation
  • Health care
  • Elementary and secondary education
  • Information on their rights and obligations
  • Work
  • Family reunification
  • Freedom of religion

However, if you have applied for international protection while holding the right to temporary protection in Croatia, you can’t use the rights of applicants for international protection as long as your approval for international protection is valid. Holders of temporary protection must follow the same obligations applied to the applicants for international protection.

UNHCR Hrvatska and their role

UNHCR Hrvatska is an organization under the Ured Visokog povjerenika Ujedinjenih naroda za izbjeglice (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). It protects the rights and well-being of refugees, enables them the right to seek asylum and find shelter, and helps people without nationality. Refugees have the option to return to their homes voluntarily, integrate into a local community, or resettle in a third country.

Croatian UNHCH headquarters is in Zagreb and their branches are located in Sisak and Knin. Its staff provides help to people in the Kutina, Zagreb, and Ježevo shelters. They are engaged in providing humanitarian and legal help, the organization of workshops, and cooperation with the government with regard to the questions of national and regional displacement. The organization advocates the fight against xenophobia and racism and the promotion of tolerance.

UNHCR Hrvatska, Vjekoslava Heinzela 44 /II, 10 000 Zagreb

Phone: +385 (0)1 3713 555


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View other helpful resources

Asylum and Subsidiary Protection
International Protection
Law on International and Temporary Protection

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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