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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Despite significant improvements in terms of equality, which took place in Croatia in recent years, discriminatory practices remain an obstacle in establishing a harmonised society in the country.

In 2013 according to the Commissioner for Human Rights 57 complaints about discrimination based on race, ethnicity, colour or national origin were noted, accounting for 23% of all complaints about discrimination. Furthermore, it was reported that 6 complaints about discrimination were based on political opinion, 5 – based on religion, 4 - on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2014, Commissioner for Human Rights received 49 complaints related to discrimination on the grounds of race, country of origin or ethnicity (22 complaints were filed by ethnic Serbs, 14 – by Romani people), 14 complaints related to discrimination on the grounds of religion and 2 complaints related to gender identity and sexual orientation. Compared to 2013, the number of complaints increased by 9%. However, the real number of discrimination incidents may be significantly larger, Commissioner believes, as many such cases are not reported by the victims.

Roma people and Serbs are among the most vulnerable groups in Croatia. According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Serbs, once driven from their homes, encounter serious administrative and other barriers when trying to restore their rights for property Furthermore, Serbs are limited in the right to use their native language Serbian minorities in Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Sriemskaya report feeling distrust of the local authorities towards them. There have been cases of discrimination in employment. Ethnic Serbian citizens are having problems with returning their apartments that have been abandoned during the Croatian War (1991-1995).

On May 5, it became known that in Croatia in 19 years about 30 thousand Orthodox Serbs converted to Catholicism. The main reason for this according to experts is the unwillingness of parents to have their children traumatized in school due to bullying from other children for what they are - Serbs.

In June 2014, the State Election Commission declined the request by the Serbian Democratic Forum to publish all materials for the elections in Vukovar in both Latin and Cyrillic.

Roma face difficulties in accessing basic public services including health, social care and education They find it hard to obtain identity documents, which in turn complicates their obtaining citizenship Only 20% of pre-school Romani children have access to relevant education facilities. Parents are either unaware of the existing local pre-school institutions or are unwilling to do so due to lack of Romani teachers or assistant teachers, or are unable to do so due to unemployment and the financial burden paid education poses. As a result, Romani children are underprepared for schools and fail to achieve good results.

Isolation of many Roma settlements in Croatia prevents their successful integration in the education system. Poor quality of life and unsanitary conditions have a serious detrimental effect on Roma children’s health in these regions In average, Roma have access to 12.9m2 of floor area per person, while non-Roma in Croatia have 35m2 per person. 53.8% of Roma families have no access to sanitation, 51.3% do not have a toilet, 50% do not have a bathroom and 46.5% do not have access to clean water in their home. 18.7% of households have no kitchen area and 12.4% have no power.

According to UNHCR, there are approximately 1000 Roma stateless persons in Croatia, which follows from the fall of Yugoslavia, where they often had no citizenship. As a result, they were unable to automatically receive citizenship. Instead, they have to go through the process of naturalisation, which was problematic, because they often lacked the necessary documents Roma are also subjected to racial profiling by the Croatian police.

The Action Plan on the realisation of the Constitutional Law on National Minorities, which aimed to ensure 5.5% of civil servants are ethnic minorities by the end of 2014, had failed to achieve this target – the real figure was only 3.65%. However, even this figure does not proportionally represent minorities in the population. For example, the proportion of Serbs in the population is 7.65% - represented by 3.65% of public service workers; proportion of Roma is 0.41% - represented by 0.05% of public service workers According to the 2011 population census, minorities constitute for more than 30% of the population in 27 municipalities, but only 10 municipalities prescribe them the right to use their native language. Another 12 municipalities provide vague general provisions on the rights of minorities to use their native language, the remaining five municipalities do not mention this at all in their local legislation.

In 2014, Croatia signed an agreement with the Protestant Church. However, unlike similar agreements with other religious organisations, this agreement only regulated issues mentioned in the 2010 ECHR ruling.

Integration procedure in Croatia is unnecessarily complex. Candidates who meet legal requirements can be arbitrarily denied citizenship. Applications for asylum are considered by the court of Zagreb in absentia, which violates the rights of migrants. In 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs refused in some cases to extend residence permits for refugees residing in Croatia due to expired passports. Some of them would have to return to the countries from which they fled to obtain new documents.

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