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Addressing social exclusion of Asylum Seekers in Croatia

Croatian Language Training

Addressing social exclusion of Asylum Seekers


What’s the problem?

A growing number of refugees arrive in Croatia, and specifically Zagreb, to seek asylum. This concerns mainly displaced people entering Europe from the Middle East and Africa. Many of them travel through Croatia on their way to other European countries, but strict immigration and border policies prevent them from getting asylum there. More and more people decide to stay and seek asylum in Croatia. This is a new phenomenon in the country, and both national and city level authorities are not equipped to deal with the social integration issues that arise. The need for engaging the City of Zagreb and other societal organisations in creating policies and programmes which could stimulate social integration and increase the quality of life for this target group is crucial. Relevant national policies are slow, not flexible, not responsive to the situation on the ground and do not take into account the context of the city when it comes to asylum seekers and their economic and social position in the community.


What’s the solution?

The solution is to establish a multi-disciplinary working group, which aims to improve and stimulate social integration of asylum seekers and establish mechanisms for social cohesion in the urban community. This group will systematically address problems that asylum seekers run into, and act as an intermediary involving city officials from relevant offices and/or external experts where necessary. The team learned that language is the first and most important barrier that prevents social integration and accommodation. Therefore the aim is to conduct a pilot project of Croatian language learning for a number of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Zagreb.



  • Local working group/community
  • Policy platform
  • Language learning program



  • Refugee and migration issues
  • Education
  • Social service delivery



  • City officials (the Mayor’s Office, City Office for Health, Office for Agriculture and Forestry, Office for EU programs and projects)
  • Asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection
  • Community organisations
  • Actors the initiative wants to engage with include NGO representatives (e.g. Centre for peace studies, Red Cross), researchers, national level experts coming from ministries, etc.



  • To improve the social integration of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in the city of Zagreb through the establishment of a city-level support system
  • Address the various challenges of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection
  • Develop a targeted form of support for learning Croatian


How is the solution innovative within the local context?

The solution includes involving city level authorities to address challenges, solve problems and design policies for a target group which was previously only addressed at a national level. It has the potential of developing innovative mechanisms and solutions adjusted to the local context, resources and target groups. The underlying multi-disciplinary approach and collaboration among different City offices improves the quality of the decision making process and supports the development of solutions. Engaging external experts in the process will showcase public sector transparency and openness for collaboration, participatory decision making and co-design of solutions related to urban issues. If implemented, Zagreb will serve as a good practice example for other Croatian cities to explore the possibility of addressing similar issues or reaching out to Zagreb to provide assistance in co-designing a policy framework or working body that will deal with asylum seeker issues.



The solution was translated into a project proposal which will be presented to the Mayor’s office for approval and funding. When extra funding is needed, the team has identified application to the European Social Fund as an option.


Stage of development

  • Working group is being formalised with city government
  • Engaging other stakeholders
  • Pilot project awaiting approval and implementation


This innovation was developed during a co-creation process facilitated by Social Innovation Lab and supported by the Social Innovation Community.