This year's refugee crisis, which has hit this region and the entire European Union, has brought attention to many open issues and unresolved situations in international relations, an annual conference on international protection said in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek on Monday.
The two-day conference was organised by the Croatian Ministry of the Interior, the UNHCR Office and the Croatian Red Cross (HCK).
"Croatia has opted for a humane approach. We are not building barriers, we are not putting up wire fencing on the border. We have encountered a number of problems in that regard, and sometimes even a lack of understanding, but we are persistent in our decision," Assistant Interior Minister Ines Krajcak said, stressing that the massive influx of refugees had strengthened the cooperation of the Ministry of the Interior, international and non-governmental organisations.
Krajcak said that over 501,000 refugees had passed through the transit centres at Opatovac and Slavonski Brod since September 15 when refugees, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, started pouring into the country on their way to western and northern Europe. She said that only about 20 of them had applied for asylum in Croatia, adding that migrants knew very little about Croatia and were headed to other countries to join their families.
HCK executive president Robert Markt said that currently there were over 40 conflicts in the world which had forced about 60 million people to leave their homes. He said that Croatia had taken a humane approach to the refugee crisis and that this was recognised both by people in Croatia and abroad, notably at last week's International Red Cross conference in Geneva.
Markt said that thanks to their coordinated action all institutions, civil society organisations and volunteers in Croatia made it clear to the arriving refugees that they were entering "a humane space". He said that this work was not over yet because migrants continued arriving.
Terence Pike of the UNHCR Office said that Croatia had passed the test of solidarity in the refugee crisis with flying colours, setting high standards for the treatment of refugees and migrants. He said that a lot of challenges still lay ahead and that the UNHCR would help with the integration of asylum seekers into Croatian society.