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LYUCI, refugee from Russia

The problems occurred in 1990.
I married a student from Africa, who was black, and then problems arose.
Because my husband was black, an African, everybody thought I was a prostitute.
We were afraid to go out in the street together.
They threw stones at us many times and hurled insults and obscenities, which I wouldn’t like to repeat now.
Couple of times they banged on our windows and neighbours shouted that the Blackman and his whore should get the hell out of here.
When they first saw my husband they said straight to our faces: “The Blacks have never lived here and they never will. Get out of here or we will set your room on fire.”
Then my husband said: “Lyuci, you know that black people can’t live here in Russia.”

…Croatia - E(N)Den on Earth…/

GORDAN BOSANAC, Centre for Peace Studies
When we talk about Asylum Seekers, concerning their rights, when they come to Croatia it is like they have come to an end of the world.
On the other hand, we believe that end could be transformed into an Eden on earth.
When we talk about right of asylum, our main concern is to see in what way a society can accept a person who has had a problem in his country, that is a person who has been persecuted, is in a difficult position and is seeking for help.
To seek asylum is the same as asking any society to help you.

ŽARKO PUHOVSKI, Croatian Helsinki Committee
In Croatia, it is completely clear that people don't come here because of adventures or to share our enormous wealth, because we don't have that kind of wealth.
They mostly come because somewhere else is very bad for them.
We mustn't forget that during the nineties, as well as afterwards, lots of countries have granted asylum in situations when many Croatian citizens couldn’t find a different way.

LYUCi: It was very dangerous for children.
I was afraid to let them outside. On our house walls they wrote: “Negroes, get the hell out of here! Russia is for Russians, for White people!”
So we went to school. The class had just finished and the children rushed to the street.
Immediately, they started hurling my girls, back and forth like a ball. “Negroes, negroes…” they screamed, while my girls cried. 
Then I realized what awaits for them there.
What kind of schooling would that be, if it was like that on the first day?
I took my children and I didn’t know what to do next.

...Approving Asylum…/

GORDANA VALENTA, assistant to the head of the inspection and administrative affairs, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI)
We still haven’t granted a single asylum in Croatia, mainly because people who seek asylum in here don’t meet the terms of our Law, that is the terms of Geneva Convention.

GORAN MILETIĆ, Centre for Peace Studies
There were situations when people came from Iraq and Sierra Leone, from war-engulfed places, where their basic human rights as right to live, were endangered, and they interpreted that as: “This is not the person who is seeking our protection.”
Those interpretations were very restrictive.

IVAN ŠPRAJC, expert on administrative law
I can only say that I wasn't consulted in any way.
I'm not sure whether they have consulted experts when they were making the basic legislative proposal of that Law.
It seems like they passed it rather shyly to the public.

 LYUCI: Even police told me: “You know well why you have such problems.
Why were you with a black man? Weren’t there any white men left? And those black children, why did you adopt black children, a whole bunch of monkeys?”
So I went to a travel agency and asked where could we travel without a visa.
“There’s only one country you can go without having a visa. It’s Croatia.”
I heard before that it’s former Yugoslavia and I knew we used to have normal relations with them.
We bought a ticket and went to Pula and there we went to the police station.
I told them we were seeking asylum.
They said:” OK, come tomorrow morning and we will help you.”

Lyuci, together with her daughters was accommodated in the Shelter for asylum seekers in Šašna Greda, a former refugee camp, 8 kilometres from Sisak.

VLADIMIR, refugee from the Ukraine

The Law itself has no explanations.
Law on asylum exists, but it has no instructions which would explain to us what it means.

...institutional guide for asylum seekers…/

DRAGO ŽUPARIĆ-ILJIĆ, Centre for Peace Studies
Institutional Guide for Asylum Seekers has couple of parts.
First, there is a part about the procedure for requesting the asylum, where they can get information about their rights and which are the competent authorities that assess their request for asylum.

EMINA BUŽINKIĆ MAAROUFI, Centre for Peace Studies
It’s 7am and we are on our way to the border to distribute our Institutional Guide translated into seven languages.
It is very important because we deal with asylum seekers and our experience speaks that they need this kind of information.

POLICEMAN AT THE BORDER: Wait a minute, first we need to contact our superiors and then we’ll see…

GORDAN BOSANAC: I think it should stand here like this, like those tourist guides we have all over Croatia.
Now we’re going to negotiate that.

FILIP DAMJANOVIĆ, head of the inspection and administrative affairs, MOI
The Guide is very useful but we’ve been taking care about that from the very beginning. Croatian Law Centre and UNHCR has made the same thing in nine languages and these leaflets can be found on every border crossing…

DRAGO ŽUPARIĆ-ILJIĆ: Leaflets were published, which are like a booklet for helping asylum seekers, and it has distributed it at border crossings.

GORDAN (can’t be seen): Are the leaflets here yet?

                       Okay. You’ll have to wait a bit more.

GORDAN BOSANAC: Leaflets didn’t arrive at the border which is odd.
We need to check that information.
Maybe they have arrived and then got misplaced, but he claims this is the first time they got anything at the border.

EMINA BUŽINKIĆ MAAROUFI: What if we notice that they haven’t put our guides there?

GORDAN BOSANAC: I think we should warn MOI because they’ve promised us and now they have broken that promise, so it’s good information for the public that institutions don’t keep their promises, especially those concerning asylum.

DRAGO ŽUPARIĆ-ILJIĆ: This is the memo.
It has Filip Damjanović’s, head of the administration office, signature on it.
It states that certain amount of leaflets can be distributed and then the Guides will be passed on to asylum seekers in the Centre.
It means they will probably pass it on.

GORDAN: It’s a clear promise.

Croatian police ethnical code

GORDAN BOSANAC: Can you promise us that you’ll inform your officers who deal with those people?

GRAY POLICEMAN: You can be sure of it in any case.

LYUCI: I can see it now, from my own experience.
It is because nobody can explain anything to me about asylum, I doubt it even exists in Croatia.
How long is the procedure, are there any deadlines for this, two or three months?

…in front of Ježevo…/

GORDAN BOSANAC: The main idea was to distribute this Guide in Ježevo, which you can see behind my back.

Admittance Centre for Aliens “Ježevo”, former motel, is the main place for acceptance and deportation of illegal immigrants, as well as the first place any asylum seeker encounters.
It is situated near Dugo Selo not far from Zagreb.

GORDAN continues: …but this morning around 9:30 it came to our attention that we won’t be able to enter Ježevo even tough last week we got a confirmation that we can visit a part of it and leave our Guide there.
Those people have the right to seek asylum here and it seems to me that MOI doesn’t want to give them too much information on the asylum. They’ve finally realised what could happen if this people knew what an asylum is and it is their right to seek it, they could abuse that right….
So it is possible this was all just a misunderstanding… Good afternoon.

POLICEMAN IN FRONT OF JEŽEVO: Until further notice, don’t…(the camera shuts down).

Head of shift at border crossing Slavonski Brod: wait a minute…

GORDAN: When somebody submits a request for asylum, you direct that person to someone else, or?
POLICEMAN: First we need to do our main job and that is to check if the request for asylum is justified.

GORDAN: So, you would do the whole interview here?
POLICEMAN: Yes, it is natural…
DRAGO: Here, at the border crossing?
POLICEMAN: In the first place we need to check their reasons.
And then if we recognize that the person can be granted asylum, the procedure continues.

Goodbye. Goodbye gentleman.

GORDAN BOSANAC: We were informed that the first hearing would be held here, which is a bit strange.
We are going to check that.
According to the Law, after one has submitted a request for asylum it is not up to border police to question that person about their reasons or anything…
It is not up to them to estimate anything.

FILIP DAMJANOVIĆ: He has nothing to do with deciding anything.
He takes a person’s statement on their decision to request asylum and then the person will officially submit their request in Ježevo.

PUHOVSKI: It is like there’s no need to help anybody unless they are blond, have nice figures and speak English, but those are the people who don’t seek asylum in Croatia.



GORDAN BOSANAC: We’ve learnt is that there are some branches of the police that deal with asylum while some other institutions have proved to be a complete failure.

FILIP DAMJANOVIĆ: We at the Ministry of the Interior are completely aware of the situation.
It would be nice if Ministry of Health, as well as Ministry of Education would become more active on this subject, and I hope they would…

Well, surely the Ministry will develop instructions…

It is in the process of adapting…

We are faced with something we need to solve, we must solve.

ADEM AHMETI; immigrant from Kosovo
We are asylum seekers.
After two and a half months we’ve finally got a positive reply from UNHCR. Then, we’ve been waiting for 6 months, from January till July.
When the Law became effective, a ladies from UNHCR and Croatian Law Centre brought me to sign a residence permit.
She said: “Take your wife and children and go. You now have a right to live whereever you want here in Croatia.”
It meant that my wife and me together with our four children, a family of six, should get out and become subtenants without any help, without anything.
How could I live like that in Croatia?
In the end they told me: “If you don’t sign this, you’ll never leave this camp.”

Croatian Parliament

ZORAN GRGIĆ, member of the Committee on Supervision of Security Service
We can’t ignore the fact that in years when Croatia’s balance is negative, when the consumption is bigger than the production and national depth is growing; we are getting ourselves into an unpleasant situation by helping anybody.
I appreciate this Catholic spark, which we all have, to help everybody, but sometimes we need to say in a Machiavellian manner: “Politics isn’t ethics!”
It means, Croatia can’t grant asylum or citizenship in years when the balance of payments is negative and when the rate of deceased is bigger than the rate of newborns, because that would change the ethnic composition in Croatia.


ADEM AHMETI: We aren’t birds or dogs, we are people.
To raise four children in 20 square meters. That’s not life.
Three of them go to school.
This is the place we eat, drink, shit, and sleep in.
What kind of possibilities for studying do they have here?
I’ve been in this hut for two years now, what kind of right is that?
You can’t call that a right.
I tell you…!
I have nothing more to say.

(in the Parlament again)

FURIO RADIN, the Committee on Human and National Minority Rights Chairman
If the number of asylum seekers increases, it could mean that the situation in the world is getting worse, but it could also mean that the level of democracy in our country is high enough, so people choose this country to seek asylum because they believe that they can have a better life here.
On the other hand, we have to point out that Croatia doesn’t tend to grant asylum.
Figures point that clearly.

ZORAN GRGIĆ: Make no haste with legislative ruling because they will have to be adjusted to European norms.
Unfortunately Israel has already had the experience, when the suicide bombers would get themselves infected with an HIV virus before they would blow themselves up and spread biological terror.
From that point of view, our main concern is security and national interests. Human rights of people who aren’t even Croatian citizens come in second place.

ADEM AHMETI: Come July, still nothing.
She came again and said: “Alright sir, if you don’t want to stay in Croatia, sign a request for another country.”
After four months a camp leader came to see me and said: “Geneva suggested you for the Netherlands.”
Two months later they came again: “Mr Ahmeti – unfortunately!”
Then I said I wanted to speak to their superior.
“We’ll see when she is going to have time to see you”, they said.
Nothing… Three months I couldn’t get in contact with the superior.
On Thursday I went to UNHCR, the security guard told me there’s no one there.
I asked how that was possible, somebody had to be there.
He told me nobody was there except the drivers.
When I finally entered, Mrs Hans and everybody else came out and told me to wait a bit more.
I said, agreement was for a month or two.
I demanded to see my settlement to see where I was standing.
No decision.

…after a month, finnaly in Ježevo…/

JOSIP BILJAN, head of the Admittance Centre for Aliens “Ježevo”
You just leave those Guides here with me.
We will distribute it to them ourselves.
If you think we won’t… That insults me because if you won’t trust me as an institution, then I don’t know where this system is heading.

We have a medical clinic here which is open daily until 12pm.
This here is some kind of cafeteria, here they have a TV room, there they can go out to the terrace…
The doors are locked now, but I’ll tell the officer to open them if you really want to go out.

Immigrant from Kosovo
We have nothing.
I wanted to go to Italy to find some work because of my family.
There’s no money for us in Kosovo.

JOSIP BILJAN: While he’s in here, he can’t be treated as an ordinary citizen, because, let’s face it, if he has behaved in a normal and cultural manner, he wouldn’t have end up in here.

Arta: - Why are you seeking asylum in Croatia if you’re on your way to Italy?

Asylum seeker ID

JETMIR, asylum seeker
- They caught me here.
Arta: Would you like to go back to Albania or stay here?
         He would like to stay here – in Croatia.

Arta: What’s it like here?
- Like in prison!
Arta: Do you like it here?
- Are you crazy?

JOSIP BILJAN: This centre isn’t supposed to be a kind of prison.
This is a closed type centre.
That means they have limited freedom of movement here.
They are aware of the fact they are committing an offence. They are aware of that.

Guy wearing blue: We haven’t committed any crimes.
Why don’t they keep us here for 2-3 days and then send us back instead of keeping us for 20 days and only then do they say when they will deport us?

- This kid here is 15 and he’s been here for 25 days already.
Guy in black: It’s not normal to keep a 15-year-old together with men in their thirties.
Arta: How do they treat you?
- The same as everybody else.
Arta: Have they offered you a psychological help?
(kid shakes his head)

JOSIP BILJAN: Look here, the children aren’t allowed to come to Ježevo.
They only come with their parents.
That means a child can only come with ones parents.
One can’t even come with ones guardian.

- But there are still children here.

BILJAN: Well yes if a guardian was appointed to them.

JOSIP BILJAN: You can still treat them as humans, but… you can’t let these people outside because they have legal limitations.
We want to keep these people away from our territory so that they wouldn’t commit serious crimes.
So now you may ask yourself where does the part ‘as humans’ fit…?

BASAK CSALY, university colledge of london

ZINA ALIBEGIĆ: He as an oppressor refuses to give him any kind of solution, any kind of explanation.

MILAN: That’s right.

Theatre of the oppressed uses the theatre methodology of questioning and exchanging social roles by getting into the roles of others. The observers intervene in the performance actively and together they seek solution…
It was established by Brazilian dramaturge Augusto Boal

ZINA ALIBEGIĆ, leader of the theatre of the oppressed
You need to show what you have experienced: “…but please, I need to know.
I’ve been here for 5 years now and nobody tells me anything.
You just shift me from one person to another.
Come tomorrow, come in a month, come in five months…”

MIROSLAV HORVAT, head of Shelter for Asylum Seekers, MOI
I don’t see people who work for MOI as oppressors, I see them as people who enforce laws and help people, who come here for their protection and try to resolve their status.
Is it solvable or not, we don’t know now…

Šašna Greda…the rehearsal…/

AHMETI: Hello, come inside. What seems to be the problem?
LYUCI: We’ve been coming to see you for two years now.
You already know me and my children and every time you tell us to wait…
How much longer do we have to wait?
AHMETI: Why she had to come to Croatia?

TATJANA: I would like to know when Mrs Ivanova can expect an concrete answer?

…Sisak…the performance…/

AHMETI: It something we never know.
EMINA: What do you mean, you don’t know…
AHMETI: Please madam, wait a minute, we know better than you…
As I’ve already said my colleague is on a vacation.
When he comes back, I’m going to take one, so…
EMINA: You mean you’re going on a vacation as well…
AHMETI: …excuse me, I’m doing the talking now.
When he returns, I’m leaving and when I come back, we will fill in their form and papers together and send them up to our superior…
EMINA: Are you trying to tell me I’ll have to wait 2 more months?
AHMETI: Two months are nothing, even two years are nothing.
People have been waiting for six years and they still haven’t got any kind of status.
We can’t make a decision. When we come back from our vacation, we’ll see what we can do…
EMINA: …when you come back from vacation…

MIROSLAV HORVAT: When you are starting a project in a system like the Ministry, then there has to be certain program, certain survey, certain financial construction…

In madam’s case a different situation could’ve been made because she’s been here for quite a while now, but children learn through playing. They’re going to start school soon where they’ll have remedial classes.
As for madam, she should be patient, her subject is going to be solved soon, her status in Croatia is going to be resolved.

LYUCI: On September 1st I thought my children would start school together with other children and that we wouldn’t have any more problems.
When I asked social workers whether my children would start school, they said they couldn’t without required papers from the Ministry of Culture.
My children and I want to speak Croatian because we live in Croatia.
They need to live together with Croatian children, we don’t need a special Russian teacher.


The Ahmeti family got the protection from the Canadian government in April 2006.

 AHMETI: It feels like I’m dreaming. I’m still not aware of anything. We’ll se by the time we get to the airport. Hopefully I’ll feel better then.
Last six years here, I’ve felt grateful my children were in school.
My child was born here, in Croatia. Today, April 27th 2006 at quarter to six, he is almost five, and he’s travelling without any citizenship, without any rights. That’s it.

- Last cup of coffee?

AHMETI: God forbid, I hope not.

- Last one in this barrack?

AHMETI: We can… If we…
…have everything we need we can leave now.

LYUCI: Some understand how hard it is for us here, we are somewhere between heaven and earth, between our country and Croatia, where we seek asylum.
It’s all up in the air.
We can’t return to our country, and we don’t know what’s going to happen or what are we going to get here.

After four months of waiting Lyuci, together with her two daughters, fled Šašna Greda without receiving MOI’s decision

Ahmeti family spent 6 years in Croatia. They lived in Šašna Greda for two and a half years

Illegal immigrants from Kosovo and Albania were deported a day after our interview.
Jetmir, asylum seeker, was deported as well

Since July 2004 when Law on Asylum came into effect untill end of 2006. there were around 350 requests for asylum in the Republic of Croatia.
No one was granted asylum

After strong pressure by international institutions, non governmental organisations and media first asylum is finnaly granted in November 2006. It is granted to christian woman from Sudan

in june 2006. center šašna greda is moved to better-conditioned center in kutina
detention center in ježevo is surrounded with two meters high concrete wall and ‘equipped’ with surveilance cameras

Centre for Peace Studies activists asked to examine the decisions on request for asylum.
The decisions were suddenly classified as official secret.



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