In 2016, Doctors of the World Belgium began providing medical care and psychological counseling to asylum seekers at two centers in Croatia.

The centers in Zagreb and Kutina are home to refugees and migrants from a number of countries

Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Iranians are among those living at the centers who have fled their home countries due to dire circumstances such as war, persecution and crippling poverty.

In Croatia, our team consists of general health practitioners, nurses, community workers and interpreters who provide primary healthcare check ups and conduct health screenings of newly arrived applicants to ensure their well being and protection.

We also provide special services such as counseling for individuals and obstetric care for pregnant women in order to monitor their progress as their due dates approach.

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While visiting one of the centers that currently houses over 600 refugees and migrants, our Belgian team spoke with a group of refugees from Syria, Pakistan and Iran about their experiences in Croatia. During our conversations, we asked each person what their favorite song was, and from there the #RadioRefugee campaign was born.

We spoke to children, mothers, fathers and grandparents to learn about the desperate choices that many of them had to make during their journeys and the songs that reminded them of home and provided them with hope for the future.

“For the things I wanted to say you could face the death penalty. There is freedom of speech, but there is no freedom after speech.”

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Rand, a young girl from Syria, spoke to us in fluent German. She told us about the moment German immigration police evicted her family from the home they had recently settled into and deported them to Austria. Reza fled Iran because, as he described, “For the things I wanted to say you could face the death penalty. There is freedom of speech, but there is no freedom after speech.”

Lajan, a mother from Syria, described how her son has become so confused by all the languages he has heard on their journey – Croatian, Swedish, English, Arabic, and Kurdish – that he now doesn’t know which language to respond in when someone asks him a question.

35% of our consultations are with women, 21% with children & 7% with children under 4 years old

Our team has been closely monitoring the health of Rand, Reza, Lajan, and hundreds of other refugees in Croatia. Last year, we provided 4,475 medical consultations at our facilities and more than 350 individual counseling sessions with psychologists.

Our visit ended on an upbeat note, despite the circumstances the refugees are confronting. On our last day of filming, we spoke with Hassan. Hassan fled the Syrian civil war in 2015 to build a better future for his wife and family, who remained behind in Syria.

The day we spoke to him, he found out that he had been granted asylum by the Croatian government and that his wife and young son would soon be able to join him. “I am so happy,” he said smiling widely. “Now we can build the foundations for a stable life. I have a 2 year old son back in Syria and today I am full of hope because I’ll finally be able to see him again.”