Croatia is prepared to take in 476 refugees as part of the EU-Turkey deal on migrant swaps.
The ‘one for one’ deal between Turkey and the European Union came into force on Monday.
The deal sees Ankara pledge that it would take back all undocumented migrants that arrives into the EU through its territory in exchange for asylum seekers from Syria.
Croatian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, HE Ivan Grdešić said that Croatia’s approach to welcoming asylum seekers would be one of empathy and understanding, in light of Croatia’s recent history.
The Croatian War of Independence in the mid 1990s caused 500,000 refugees or displaced persons.
The Croatian response to the refugee crisis in Europe is the same as it was in 1991/92- solidarity. We were very sensitive to the people fleeing for their lives, we were ready to help them.
The refugees are arriving in Croatia on the eastern boarders – well all those living now in Croatia on the eastern borders were refugees once, so when they see these Syrians coming on those buses, they see themselves 25 years ago.
He describes how a country of 4 million took in 600,000 Bosnian refugees during the Bosnian War in the mid 1990s and believes that ‘this is a lesson Europe can take’.
But Foreign Minister Miro Kovač said he believes it would be hard to keep them in the country.
He was quoted by the ministry on Tuesday as saying:
We stay true to our word in Croatia and will fulfil our obligations, we shall accept those 476 refugees from the Turkish territory, but the biggest challenge will be to get these people to remain in Croatia. They will want to move on – to Germany, Austria, Slovenia or the Netherlands
Last year, Croatia received the least number of asylum applications.
According to Eurostat, Zagreb received only 140 of the total number of 1,255,640 EU applications in 2015.
The past twelve months have seen more than 1.8 million border crossings into Europe and has been called the worst refugee crisis since World War II.