Today, on 15 January 2018, at the beginning of the second semester of the school year, we wish to speak about twenty-eight child asylum-seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Turkey who enrolled in one of the primary schools in Zagreb a year ago, at the start of the second semester. Some of these children found themselves in Croatia after they and their families were stopped on their way to countries in the heart of Europe, but most of them were deported to Croatia from these countries, i.e., Austria, Germany and Sweden, after having lived there for months, and in some cases years.
In January 2017, enrolling child asylum-seekers in school seemed to be an important step forward compared to the previously discriminatory attitude of the competent Croatian institutions to the education of refugee children, whose access to education had been unsystematic, inadequate and delayed. Secondary-school pupils are still faced with this situation, and for this reason some of them have lost their right to attend school. For the children enrolled in primary school at the time, their organized inclusion in the school system could have been a sign of welcome, perhaps even a signal that a new beginning was possible, that they had arrived at the first place in their lives where they would no longer have to hide, be chased away, or flee.
A year on, most of these children are no longer in Croatia, while only one child has been granted international protection after a wait of almost one year. The children who have left Croatia, either because their application for international protection has been rejected, or because their families had no reason to believe they would be granted protection and a chance of a better life here, left the country in secret, braving all the dangers of such a journey, hoping to reach – once more or for the first time – a “better Europe” where they are again threatened with persecution, deportation and a life in hiding. Some of the children have gone back to their war-torn country or a country in the area.
Of the twenty-eight children who started school in Zagreb exactly one year ago, only ten of them will be in school today. Eight of them are living in extreme uncertainty since Croatia has refused to grant them protection, declaring by inertia and with no explanation that they pose a security threat or that their countries of origin, from which their parents sometimes had to flee before they were born, can be considered safe. At this stage of the asylum procedure, their families can still avail themselves of legal mechanisms, however meagre, keeping up their hope that the Croatian authorities will allow them to stay. If they do not, since Croatia yet does not carry out deportations to their countries of origin, they may be deprived of their liberty and sent to the detention centre in Ježevo or be forced to live outside the system, with no rights, in fear, hiding and running. This reveals once again not only how dysfunctional, but how toxically destructive are the European regime of migration control and the current asylum system. The system exacerbates and adds to situations of disenfranchisement and suffering, depriving entire generations not only of their chances of getting an education, but of all other kinds on institutional support for a life lived in dignity. Therefore, instead of a policy of destruction and hypocrisy, we call on the highest government bodies in Croatia to set up without delay political and institutional frameworks guided by the principles of responsibility and care for every child and every schoolchild in our country, those who are already here and those who are yet to arrive.
Are You Syrious and Welcome! initiative