26 November 2014
The first AIDA Report on Croatia, compiled by ECRE member organisation Croatian Law Centre (HPC), shows that vulnerable asylum seekers are not properly identified and assisted throughout the procedure and that access to medical assistance is generally very limited.
In particular, the report highlights that, in Croatia, asylum seekers who are in need of special procedural guarantees are not identified in a timely manner and as a consequence their claims may not be assessed properly. This is due to the lack of a system for the early identification of victims of torture or other forms of ill-treatment in the asylum procedure. In addition, even when the claims of some asylum seekers indicate that they may have been victim of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, medical examinations are not ordered due to the lack of sufficient State funds to cover their cost.
The report further notes that, following changes in the Law on Asylum in December 2013, health care assistance was drastically reduced to emergency healthcare. Emergency healthcare includes only the treatments “necessary to avoid imminent danger to life and health”. Following these legislative amendments, no doctor was present at the two reception centres for asylum seekers in Croatia, and currently a doctor is present only at the Zagreb centre on a weekly basis. Furthermore, effective access to health care is further impaired by the lack of State-funded interpretation for that purpose.
Finally, the report notes that free State-funded legal aid is not available during the first instance asylum procedure. Free legal aid and representation are only available during the second instance procedure before the Administrative Court against a negative first instance decision. The lack of free legal aid is reported as an issue also with regard to the possibility of challenging a detention order. In fact, due to the lack of free legal aid and of an automatic review of the detention order, as well as to the fact that most asylum seekers are not able to understand the reasons for their detention due to the language used in the decision, detention orders are not challenged before the Administrative Court.
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 27 November 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.