Separate Doctor’s Office for Asylum-Seekers – Benefit or Discrimination?

Total Croatia News

NGO’s say the segregation represents discrimination.

At a health centre in the Dugave neighbourhood in Zagreb, there is a separate family medical office which is reserved just for people seeking international protection who live in a nearby accommodation centre. The office has a different waiting room and a separate toilet. While the health centre claims this is just an added benefit for migrants, the Are You Syrious Association considers this to be segregation, reports on January 7, 2018.

The director of the health centre, Antonija Balenović, explained why asylum-seekers cannot receive medical help in other offices in the centre but are instead separated from regular citizens. “We have 101 offices and among them is the one which is for people seeking international protection. It employs doctors who can speak to the patients in a foreign language,” Balenović said, adding that the language in question is English. To the remark that most doctors probably know English well enough to speak to patients, she replied, “No, not all doctors speak English, especially not well enough to be able to discuss medical problems.”

But, if that is the reason for a separate office, why do asylum-seekers have a separate waiting room as well? “There is an additional waiting room for them, but they do not have to be in that particular waiting room, they are not forced. They can sit in the common waiting room, or use any toilet they want. But, we have a separate waiting room because some of them had contagious diseases and we could be sued if, say, somebody with tuberculosis sat next to someone who was a toothache and that person was infected.” Balenović said this was actually an additional benefit for asylum-seekers, because previously, health care was provided in an inadequate room at the accommodation centre, which was not in line with rules for providing health care.

“It is wrong to conclude that the separate toilets and waiting areas are discrimination, just the opposite. We wanted to make it more efficient for them to use the available facilities according to their needs,” said Balenović.

However, Asja Korbar from the Are you Syrious Association, which supports refugees, is of a different opinion. “We believe that providing health care in the health centre is a step forward in the sense of a legally prescribed minimum, but at the same time, it is quite far from the principle of equality of asylum-seekers with respect to other citizens of Croatia. We don’t question the quality of the medical services provided, we’re just commenting on the organisation of the medical service. As long as there are no medical or technical reasons for separation, we consider it to be systemic segregation.”

She pointed out that the number of cases of infectious diseases among asylum-seekers was minimal and that the presence of asylum-seekers in Croatia has never caused an epidemic. “When they arrive at the accommodation centre, every asylum-seeker undergoes an initial medical examination for the purpose of identifying or preventing contagious diseases,” Korbar said.

“Does this mean that the migrant children should be placed in special schools or classrooms, or that the movement of refugees in Zagreb should be restricted, just because we presume in advance that they could endanger us?” asked Korbar.

Translated from


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