The Islamic Community in Karlovac on Saturday organised a get-together and lunch for ten asylum-seeking families from Syria, and the event was also attended by representatives of organisations that help the asylum-seekers in the process of social integration, notably the International Organisation for Migrations and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
Janko Gredelj of the JRS said that the path of integration was not easy. Asylum-seekers have to continue learning the Croatian language intensively, a process that began at the reception centre for asylum-seekers in Kutina so that they can prepare for employment and become independent and equal citizens as soon as possible because if they do not integrate in two years, they lose the right to state aid.
"The demand for workers in Croatia is great, 20 asylum-seekers are currently registered with the employment office in Karlovac. The local community has accepted them well, and we have been given an office by the city authorities where our colleague Said al Ahmed, who has been in Croatia for nine years, will assist them daily so there is no reason for fear," Gredelj said.
Mirjana Pogacic of the Karlovac Social Welfare Centre said they wished the asylees a life of peace, health, joy and love in Karlovac, recalling that Croatians, too, had experienced war and knew how to work with refugees and, generally, with people in need.
"You should know that we share the experience of war with you, that we understand you and that we will do our best to help you overcome all problems you may encounter," Pogacic told the Syrian families.
Renata Kucan of the Karlovac city authorities welcomed the asylees, particularly their children who have already been enrolled in local primary schools.
Teacher Sanja Ravbar said the children have been very well accepted because they are hard-working, motivated and very good at mathematics. She said that the language barrier still existed but that she believed that in time everything would be great.
It was also said that none of the asylum-seekers in Karlovac had complained about the smallest sign of xenophobia and that apart from welcoming words, they were also given concrete assistance, such as free taekwondo lessons for the Syrian children.
The IOM organises the relocation of people in need across the world, and in this specific case, the refugees were relocated from refugee camps in Turkey, said Igor Anicic.
Previous experience has shown that a large number of asylees have left Croatia for other EU countries.
There is nothing bad about it, it is a process in which they are granted practically all civil rights as well as Croatian travel documents, which are also EU travel documents, he said.
Countries are given quotas for refugee integration, during which asylum-seekers obtain all social and other rights, which is followed by the search for employment in line with one's own skills and abilities, said Anicic.
The chief imam in Karlovac, Admir Muhic, said the Syrian asylees were all followers of Sunni Islam just like Croatian Muslims.
He said that the Syrian children would start attending religious instruction, primarily as a way of learning the language as well as to get spiritual and other help.
Bermin Meskic of the Karlovac Islamic community said that Croatia set a positive example with regard to the integration of Muslims, that the Islamic community in Croatia was an integral part of the Croatian society and that Muslims in Croatia wanted the new fellow citizens to integrate well.
"Lately we have also been witnessing negative stories, disturbing news not far from us, on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and today's event is an example of solidarity, humanity and warmth. I wish to believe that we in Croatia will show that face most frequently, I know that that will be so as long as there is a need for Croatia's assistance," said Meskic.