As the “refugees crisis” have caught the whole of Europe, so is the Republic of Croatia. It’s hard for a predominantly homogeneous nation to adapt to a culture of diversity, but some organizations are struggling to do so. Although Croatia is still at the beginning of this fight, so it won only a few battles, there is hope that it will nevertheless be directed in a positive direction.
Regarding the immigrants and citizens’ attitude towards them, the situation in this country is not ideal, bureaucracy makes it difficult to give citizenship to asylum seekers, it is difficult to find interpreters for the languages of the Middle East, it is difficult to find adequate accommodation for asylum seekers, there are still stereotypes in society as far as refugees and their religion, the right to secondary care, free access to higher education and state-organized language courses are not achieved, and it is difficult to mobilize people to help those in need.
Are You Syrious is an organization that started the initiative of citizens who wanted to provide support to refugees who went through Croatia, the main goal was to provide food, clothing, water on green borders and then camps. Their work begins in 2015, but today it has grown into something much more. The Info Team has already been contacted, which includes volunteers from all over the world who report daily on a refugee situation along the route, from Turkey to the Scandinavian countries.
They also focus on giving support to children, have launched a language learning program and support in writing the task for the youngest who is called Braco and cuts in which more than 60 children participate, and have launched an initial Croatian language course for 20 students. They established Free Shop and Integration Center, a place where asylum seekers, other citizens in need, can choose and freely obtain clothes, shoes, household items, hygiene for free, get information about finding a job, enrolling in school or rights related to social, health care. They also took part in numerous actions such as the reconstruction of the camp in the Syrian province of Latakia, the humanitarian aid for Greece, the cooperation with Croaticum (three semesters of the free language course B1 of the Croatian language for refugees) and the Faculty of Philosophy (literacy course). Although there are still many holes to be enclosed, although there is still a lot of demanding work, Are You Syrious sees positive small changes made by it volunteers and members who affect the lives of people. They think that it’s wonderful to testify how little it takes to make a change in one’s life. They are really an organization that is trying to create a welcoming society, although with small steps, they contribute to creating a better tomorrow. Then these steps do not seem to be so small if their goal is so great.
Also, another organization is working on creating a better society, side by side with Are You Syrious, and they are Students for Refugees. Although its members are young students and, even though their activism contributes to society for only a year, they are still struggling to make it home for those who need it. Of course, everything has its price, and members of Refugee Students have “paid” to gain a lot of knowledge, experience and personal strength. Everything started with collecting and distributing donations, but now they are primarily dealing with sensitization work. Furthermore, they are trying to open a small school of activism, online sharing the necessary information, they are currently writing a report on the human rights of refugees in Croatia for the research network Issues Without Borders. Their best project was the two-day symposium “Crimeigration”, organized by the “Discrepancy” Students’ Club, highlighted the problem of increasingly frequent criminalization of migration and civic solidarity.
Perhaps the state system does not contribute to the creation of a culture of diversity, but people in Croatia are doing their best! Regardless of age, sex, education, people have created compassion and understanding for refugees. Perhaps in our culture, this is not so widespread, but a cup of people is trying to sensitize a rich culture where there is no fear and distrust of the unknown. Although they may work in shadows and most citizens do not know that such branches exist at all, this is less important. The most important thing is that such organizations are persistent in what they do, and later their actions can be read. Her members, activists, people who want to help other people just because we share similar biological, genetic, psychological predispositions are perhaps not heroes of the present, but certainly heroes of tomorrow.
Article by: Karla Generalić, volunteer at Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights – Osijek