Croatia is a top tourist destination with its long, beautiful coastline along the Aegean Sea, and tourism accounts for 17 percent of country’s annual gross national product. However, over the past 25 years, the country has been in headlines for something quite different. The Balkan Wars of the 1990s and the Syrian refugee crisis of the last few years have increased the number of Croatian refugees leaving the country as well as foreign refugees coming into the country. Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees began arriving in Croatia in 2015. Below are 10 facts about Croatian refugees.
- Croatia declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. This resulted in a war that lasted until 1995. During this time, 900,000 Croats were displaced both inside and outside the country.
- It is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 ethnic Serbs left Croatia in August 1995 after a military conflict, while 130,000 ethnic Croats left Bosnia and Herzegovina for Croatia.
- War broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. During the war, an estimated 403,000 refugees arrived in Croatia as a result of the conflict.
- The Croatian refugees who left the country began returning in 1996. By 2012, over 132,600, or roughly half, of the Croatian refugees of Serbian descent had returned to Croatia. One of the main issues impeding their return was housing. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has worked to help alleviate this problem as well as the legal, social and technical issues that arise for returning refugees.
- In 2015, Croatia faced new refugee challenges when a huge wave of Syrian refugees arrived en route to northern Europe. During this influx, more than 800,000 people passed through Croatia.
- During this period, there were two refugee camps set up in Croatia, and the government provided free transport for refugees to Hungary and later to Slovenia.
- On September 16, 2015, Croatia became one of the main transit countries when Hungary closed its borders to refugees. Since then, the country sees approximately 12,000 entries each day.
- The Balkan refugee route was effectively closed in March of 2016 when Slovenia closed its borders to migrants, and Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia quickly followed suit. The aim was to end the flow of migrants to Europe through the Balkans.
- As a member of the European Union, Croatia has an obligation to abide by a plan to relocate refugees from Greece and Italy, countries where the most refugees have arrived.
- Croatia has agreed to receive a total of 1,600 asylum-seekers by the end of 2017 as agreed with the EU resettlement scheme.
These 10 facts about Croatian refugees show why these migrants have brought Croatia into world headlines for the last quarter of a century.
– Jene Cates