Unaccompanied Minors (UM) in Croatia: the Issues of Language Learning, Education, Guardianship, Family Reunification and Integration

Longitudinal Empirical Research:

Duration: 2014-2019

Project Leader: Dubravka Mlinarić, Research Associate

Collaborator: Drago Župarić-Iljić, Scientific Novice, later Research Associate (IMIN; Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb since 2018)

Student Collaborator: Ting Ting, EMMIR Master student during the Internship

This empirical research was conducted at the Scientific Department for Migration and Demographic Research of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies as the extension of the field work which had been initiated by the Internship requirement of  EMMIR programme (European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations) student  from the University of Oldenburg (Germany) and University of Stavanger (Norway). IMIN is listed as an associate research partner for the both aforementioned institutions. A student Ting Ting completed her Master Internship from June to August 2014. Within the same programme framework she continued her previous research in the field of policies and practices related to asylum and unaccompanied children, working on the topic: Unaccompanied minors in Croatia – Comparative Perspective: Analysing the Policies vs. Practices. Initial student research on the selected phenomena related to unaccompanied minors has been continued longitudinally during several following years at the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies.

Research description: Initial field research among the care providers and policy-makers included into legal, social, medical, education and other lines of protection of the unaccompanied minors was conducted in July and August 2014, in Kutina, Ježevo and Zagreb. Due to the ethical issues of this particular research (legally protected and highly fragile age category of children in question) the research has focused on experts from various disciplines, who are involved in providing care. Researchers collected several dozens of semi-structured interviews and used the method of comparative analysis for the „good practice“ evaluation among the neighboring states’ practices. Secondary literature and legal regulations have been thoroughly analysed, followed by an extensive qualitative analysis of the field materials gathered from the respondents in longitudinal perspective. The materials have been transcribed, processed and systematically updated. The most prominent actors among ministries, governmental bodies and other authorities, international organizations  (such as the Red Cross, UNHCR, UNICEF and UN) as well as the relevant Croatian NGOs dealing with unaccompanied minors were consulted. The research was extended to the segment of recent guardianship system transformation by the evaluation of the recently implemented legal framework of the Protocol for UM (Protokol o postupanju prema djeci strancima). In certain lines of research the whole project has continued until the early 2019, changing its focus from the learning of Croatian and overall education of UM to issues of guardianship and family reunification. The project results have been gathered and systematised, summarised and regularly published at various research stages.   

The dissemination of collected knowledge was organised through conference presentations at various symposia and round tables. Both researchers D. Župarić-Iljić and D. Mlinarić regularly reported their new findings to the Asylum Coordination (Koordinacija za azil of the Croatian Legal Centre) and the Red Cross meetings. Some of the research results are transformed into recommendations for the governmental authorities (such as the Ministry of the Internal Affairs) in preparation of the new acts (such as the new Law on International and Temporary Protection and Law on Foreigners). 

The project activities included also mentoring and reporting for the EMMIR student Ting Ting (June-August 2014), mutual participation in organization of the international scientific conference „Towards a European Society? Boundaries, Borders, Barriers“ in Zagreba, organized by the Croatian Sociological Association (June 2014), publishing of the original scientific results in the relevant publications (Migracijske i etničke teme and Revija za sociologiju) and participation in several national and international conferences, round tables as well as in media and public forums in order to disseminate the project results. 

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