Some in Croatia welcome migrants and refugees

19-year-old Wasim Asfor dreams of becoming  a dentist. He came with his family from Syria, escaping the war there in 2015. They were hoping to settle in Germany, but because they were first registered in Croatia, they were told they had to return here. Asfor is now glad.

“I’m not sorry because people are better here and in Germany they are colder.”

Asfor got help from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), which has operated in Croatia for years but also works in 55 other countries. The organization’s main goal is to help with the integration of refugees.

“They helped me so much, I study every day, every Saturday I go there to study, to write my homework and they really help me with everything,” Asfor said.

That help is a benefit to both refugees and to the country, according to the chairman of the JRS. Tvrtko Barun says helping immigrants find work contributes to their integration in Croatian society and helps alleviate the lack of workforce in Croatia.

“Employers are calling every day because they know we are working with refugees, in order to connect them with employers,” Barun said.

Barun says people have recognized the JRS for its quality work with refugees.

“Over the last two years, we have helped around 50 people with their employment, and that number is even higher considering that those were entire families and parents,” he said.

Immigrants valued by businesses

Other immigrants find help from private individuals. Purija Javidi is a kitchen assistant who left Iran for Croatia to find a better life.

“It was very hard first year because we didn’t speak croatian and we didn’t know anybody and we had no friends…now we have friends and we know to speak croatian and all is well,” Javidi said.

Purija and his wife Samira managed to get a job at Ćorluka Sanatorium in Zagreb shortly after being granted asylum, but they are not the only ones. Pavo Ćorluka, the owner of the Sanatorium, actively recruits immigrants and tries to help them integrate.

“They have to get used to you because they walked a long way. It is a huge distrust because they have been cheated by other employers a few times before.  You need a good 2-to-3 months for them to realize that you will not use them in a way that does not pay them for the work they do,” Ćorluka said.

Currently, 14 immigrants work in the sanatorium as caregivers and in the kitchen. Helping them find their futures makes good business sense to Ćorluka and is more than that to Barun.

“Our mission is to follow, serve and advocate refugees and other forced displaced people. We must stand by their side and get to know all dimensions of their life,” he said.

For Asfor and Javidi, Croatia is offering a future and a home.

Story contributed by: Andrej Soldo, Andrea Guša, Petar Kleščić, Renata Šimić