asylum seekers at the Porin reception centre.jpg
Foto of asylum seekers at the Porin reception centre.
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR/ ds

Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic and the head of the European Commission Representation to Croatia, Branko Baricevic, welcomed the first group of migrants outside the Porin reception centre for asylum seekers in Zagreb on Friday.

The first group of four migrants from Eritrea was relocated from Italy under the European Union's migration management plan.

"Salaam alaikum. Welcome to Croatia," Orepic greeted them.

He recalled that Croatia joined the European Union three years ago today and that now it had the chance to help people in trouble. He said this was not just a humane gesture but also an obligation stemming from EU membership.

"This act shows that Croatia is a serious country meeting its commitments," Orepic said, adding that this was just the beginning of a process in which all state institutions would have to demonstrate responsibility.

EBaricevic said he was pleased to congratulate the Croatian government and people on behalf of the European Commission on "opening their door and hearts" to people who were going through what Croatia had gone through 25 years ago. "This puts Croatia among the member states which are mature and understand that the migrant issue can be solved only if we understand it as a common issue."

"This is proof of our maturity and responsibility because solidarity requires responsibility. I think in this way we have shown that Croatia is one of the EU members that has recognised this problem because this is not a problem of only one country or the EU but a global problem," Baricevic said.

Asked to comment on claims that Croatia was not prepared for the reception of migrants, Baricevic said that as much as 70 million euros was earmarked in the EU budget for migrants in Croatia until 2020, adding that he was confident that Croatia would know how to use that money.

"We accommodated hundreds of thousands of refugees 25 years ago and I am sure that that experience, knowledge and empathy will help Croatia now to be a good example not just in the region but globally as well," he said.

The director of the reception centre, Anita Dakic, said that the four migrants would formally apply for international protection already tomorrow and that their applications would be treated as a matter of priority and dealt with within the next 30 days.

Dakic said that the Porin reception centre offers three meals a day, including two hot meals, as well as various workshops and activities for migrants, such as learning of the language and psychosocial assistance.

One of the migrants, 27-year-old Abdul Rahmani, told the press he was happy to be in Croatia and that he had not expected such a warm welcome. He said he hoped to find a good job as a driver and to stay in Croatia until retirement.

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