Croatian Viewpoint
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The year 2005 marks the 60th anniversary of the Bleiburg Genocide of Croatian people after WWII, a necessary precursor to the Tito ascendancy. From that time until today Croatian culture has been affected by a long period of mass systematic emigration overseas.
The Bleiburg genocide has been acknowledged by most of the world through some UK-produced documentaries or literature, and through comprehensive literature written by Croatian survivors and their advocates. Unfortunately it has not been sufficiently acknowledged in the Croatian community that the overseas emigration of people of Croatian ancestry still occurs at unsatisfactory levels. Unfortunately many recent publications have little analysis about the causes or effects of this continued exodus.
In 1986 I produced a small brochure about the exodus of Croats from Yugoslavia (in consultation with the Croatian Coordinating Committee, Melbourne). The distribution of this brochure to the media resulted in a mention on SBS ethnic radio; and I was also given an interview. Any real exposure to the fact of continued emigration never went to air however.
In 1999 the Croatian Immigration Museum Project Committee, inaugurated by the Croatian World Congress Victoria, compiled the official museum brochure and exhibit for Victoria's Immigration Museum. As the project coordinator and original copyrighted writer I was unsuccessful in portraying the true extent of the continued immigration of Croats into Australia.


Croatian Communities Not 'Ageing'

The Croatian community in Australia is not ageing, and this may be determined when combining statistics together with Croats from Bosnia & Hercegovina. Official Immigration Department reports in Australia refer to a continuing emigration from Croatia and to the rejuvenation of the community. In addition, analysis of a cross-section of gravestone inscriptions at cemeteries in Victoria show that the mortality rate for Croats is well under the Australian average. (unpublished data obtained from my studies of the Keilor and Preston and Fawkner cemeteries of Croatian inscriptions over a ten year period.) This can be also ascertained when comparing statistics over the age of 65 with the Australian average. The very fact that Croats in Australia have formed a disproportionately large contingent of blue collar workers explains that the community is more vulnerable to health problems and tragically, to premature death (A statewide survey of the health of Victorians in 1998 and 2001 measured community health in a Disability-Adjusted Life Years study, to establish how disability affects premature death rates.)

Defining Immigration Categories Correctly

Also, Croats need to understand how their emigration is enabled, according to official categories determined by various governments overseas. The rationale behind a decision to migrate whether economic or political from the client's point of view, has little to do with how the evolving structure, definition and quota systems of immigration policy overseas enable the client's entry.

Global Context of Croatian Exodus

In addition, Croatian people need to view their individual emigration as part of the bigger phenomenon of global Croatian emigration, in order to establish a 'foundation of awareness' of the continuing problem. And, problem it is, for example, as analyses of the brain drain of the scientific community from the European continent reveal. Let us take a brief look at the bigger picture.
According to statistics, over 200,000 Croats emigrated (often filling refugee/humanitarian categories overseas) in just one decade, the 1990s. This figure continues to grow. Where did they go?
In 1996 one quarter of referrals for resettlement to UNHCR were from the former Yugoslavia, and of these over 60 per cent were of Croatian ancestry. Large UN operations were undertaken to resettle these refugees to 10 principal countries including Australia, NZ, Canada , the USA, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden & Switzerland and they also traveled to South America and South Africa .


In comparison with Australia , Canada has accepted approximately twice as many immigrants since 1991 (on average, over 200,000 annually). A proportion of this high annual intake includes people of Croatian ancestry. For example, in Canada between 1991 and 1996, 36,500 people arrived from the 'countries of the former Yugoslavia'. For example, in Canada for 1994, the arrivals from Bosnia-Herzegovina totaled 4,620 and a breakdown suggests that up to 70% of these are of Croatian background.
Under the 'Refugee class' arrivals from B&H for 1999, 2,698; refugee class for 2000, 839 arrivals; and refugee class for 2001, 639 arrivals. The same set of statistics also show Croatia in the top ten 'refugee class' with 1999, 1,187 arrivals; refugee class for 2000, 797 arrivals; and refugee class for 2001, 357 arrivals. Of course others of Croatian descent also arrived in Canada during the same periods under other categories such as 'Family Class' or 'Principal Applicants'.
The above 'refugee class' figures have been separated from those of 'Yugoslavia' which also showed 5208 refugee class arrivals in Canada between 1999 & 2001.


Almost 30,000 have settled in Australia from the republics of the former Yugoslavia according to an official analysis of the 1996 census, and it is acknowledged that Croatian statistics do not account for those who are classified as having come from other former republics. According to another official DIMA report a rejuvenation of the Croatia-born population seems likely to continue. The annual figure continues to rise with several thousand more Croats arriving under the special humanitarian category until it closed in 2001.


The growth rate for arrivals from former Yugoslavia to the USA between 1990 and 2000 was 97%, totaling 134,967 people, and conservative estimates would suggest that over 60% of these were of Croatian ancestry.


Between 1990 and 2001, 143,436 asylum seekers from the former Yugoslavia went to Sweden, and once again a conservative figure for the Croatian proportion would be over 60%.

A Foundation of Awareness

In the following, the reasons for continuing mass emigration of Croats are dissected from a different perspective-that of 'pull' factors. The study involves the Australian/Croatian example. The conditions described in this example epitomize the typical emigration story of Croats from both Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia . It is not to say that 'push' factors have not been present in the past but clearly push factors have dominated the debate on overseas Croatian migration.
Who is the typical Croatian migrant overseas, and why did he or she leave the land of their birth, Croatia? Which overseas immigration laws, human rights policies or codes of justice enabled the Croatian decision of emigration? Are immigration choices the same for everyone in the global economy? This analysis will attempt to illustrate that a coalition of interest groups have not produced positive results within the context of Croatian emigration. Admittedly there are millions of Croats overseas, but how many did not assimilate, how many who kept their identity became economically successful, and of those, how many paid with their health or life?
The above questions can be answered by an analysis of the forces which contribute to Croatian emigration, in particular to overseas destinations. First, I am attempting to put emigration (in the Croatian case) into its proper historical and moral context, and secondly I am trying to stimulate debate on this issue which has been 'traditionally' covered-up.
I will be focusing on 'pull' factors and not 'push' factors. I will be suggesting a trend away from sponsorship of Croatian relatives to 'overseas' destinations, rather than on the decision of a small minority of Croats to 'return' to their birth-land.
 Pull factors include the following:
  • UNHCR: the role of international immigration bodies & laws
  • 'Displaced Persons' and the role of quotas
  • 'White Australia Policy': indirect impact on Croatian depopulation
  • Catholic Immigration Office: the dual function of migrant chaplains
  • Industry, Unions & Government: collaboration with Yugoslavia
  • 'Family Reunion ' policy: Endogamy & family disunion
  • Multiculturalism: inconsistent application & consequences
  • 'brain drain': increased quota for skilled migrants
  • Personal perceptions & Censorship: lack of knowledge

Historical Overview of Croatian Emigration

There have been too few critics of mass Croatian emigration to overseas destinations in history because Croatia was not recognized as an independent country until 1992. Now it is time for more open and honest debate on the issue.
The Radic brothers tried to discourage mass emigration to overseas destinations which occurred in pursuit of the 'American Dream' a century ago by passing restrictive laws in the Croatian parliament, but 'mass' emigration overseas has continued anyway since the turn of the 19 th century. When Croatian women began to emigrate en masse in the 20 th century, villages were not only suffering from empty fields but from abandoned hearths. Ironically, Prpic, a respected American/Croatian academic described Croatian emigration to North America as freedom from oppression, even though he then went on to describe the often fatal hardships faced by the Croatian emigrant
The people who would like to see Croatian emigration slow down are rarely to be found. It was a rare article several years ago in the Australian/Croatian press by Dr. Jakov Gelo which drew my attention to the depopulation of Croatia. In a later example, B. Ellis wrote that the difference between the 'Medjugorje Appeal' and the UN or EEC relief efforts was that the Medjugorje Appeal declared it a mistake to propose transferring refugees from the former Yugoslavia to second countries, and that their goal is to help people remain in their homeland. Through this Appeal there have been some individuals of non-Croatian background who have sponsored orphans from the recent war in Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina to help them remain with their families. Don Ante Bakovic, has been publishing a monthly newspaper called 'Narod' (published in Zagreb), which focuses on the depopulation of Croatia because of mass emigration. Hopefully its message has had some effect, but in the case of emigration numbers to Australia, it does not appear to be so.
The 1994 Croatian video entitled, 'This is Croatia ' claims that Croatia is second only to Puerto Rico for its number of emigrants. (see under paragraph about personal perceptions) The book, 'Croatia 1994', also produced in Zagreb, discusses the 'emigration tradition', displaced persons, economic and political emigration, guest workers, etc., but does not pass any judgment on this tragedy.
All of the above fit into categories described under the 'theory of migration' so this begs the question: why do Croats emigrate more per capita than others? I will briefly highlight that in the case of Croatian overseas emigration, many interest groups have colluded and behaved inconsistently in their interpretation and application of immigration and multicultural guidelines.


Wilson 's book, 'Population Geography' (Australia, 1973) describes migration theoretically as the interplay of 'push' factors from a source nation and 'pull' factors from absorber or sink regions. Theoretically, emigrants only travel short distances unless obstacles are removed such as borders, quotas, financial barriers, or racial restrictions. Personal decisions about emigration usually occur in 'stages', and decisions are regulated by one's 'perceptions'. Emigration is usually a one-way journey because of economic or class perceptions. Rural people emigrate more often than urban people. Industrialization has encouraged emigration, and is the cause of increased female emigration. One's perception about economics is the main driving force behind emigration.


Croats have emigrated all over the world, but this analysis will use the example of Croatian emigration to Australia and will deal with 'pull' factors only because volumes have already been written about 'push' factors.
In the case of Australia , there are many more 'pull' factors than there are 'push' factors, a controversial fact which has yet to be exposed. For example, if oppression has been claimed as a prominent 'push' factor for Croatian emigration in the past (which in many cases it was a legitimate claim), now the so-called emigration tradition has gained a momentum of its own. The main reasons for Croatian emigration overseas have changed because they now fall under the 'pull' category.
In 1994, because links with Australia through 'sponsorship by relatives' were an 'important eligibility criterion' for prospective refugees from the former Yugoslavia, the 'pull' forces are still the prerequisite or necessary determinant in the decision to emigrate overseas. (see Department of Immigration & Multicultural Affairs Fact Sheets on a specially created humanitarian category with origins from 1991-- also explained in Nova Hrvatska, 5-11 April 1994, pg 10) This extra, newly created humanitarian category was ultimately filled by a large percentage of Croats, and remained in force for up to a decade after the start of the conflict. Therefore ultimately the responsibility for the depopulation (or continued ethnic cleansing) of Croatia lies with Croatian relatives abroad, and those who encourage it. Croatian people can go on leaving their destiny up to the laws of other countries, or they can resist this unnecessary depopulation of Croatia by acknowledgement of this issue.


Acknowledgement of the existence and processes of continuing mass overseas Croatian emigration would be a major step in the right direction. Croatian people complain that "only a thousand or two a year" can emigrate now to Australia, as if that is not excessive because it used to be up to five to ten thousand a year, continuing in waves but never stopping, over the past several decades. For members of the Croatian community this few thousand a year which come to Australia or New Zealand is just part of their 'emigration tradition', as if it has nothing to do with them as individuals. So, it is difficult to arrive at a consensus that this 'emigration tradition' is not a tradition, but it is a tragedy! Emigration does not contribute to 'family reunion' but to 'family disunion'!
An abandoned home in Policnik, its inhabitants all live overseas.

Stage One & Stage Two

Our acknowledgement would be a major step in a positive direction, and the first point to understand is what I will call 'stage one'. In the case of Croatian emigration 'stage one' was or is usually a European destination. Hundreds of thousands of Croats left or escaped from their homeland in the 1950s or 1960s to work as European 'Guest Workers', or they ended up as so-called 'displaced persons'. From these European 'stage one' locations, most then were searched for by various immigration agents from other nations and institutions, including Australian agents, and shipped overseas. Their short trip to Europe, little did they know, became only a stage of a longer journey. Once they left Croatia they became more vulnerable to a greater number of foreign influences than if they had stayed at home. Propaganda films and posters were shown in European migrant camps about 'eternal sunshine and a house by the sea for everyone' in Australia (The Age, 20 Sept. 92). Migrants were then given assistance for their journey to Australia ('stage two'), but many still didn't believe that this one-way passage would be the single greatest decision of their life.


A couple of migration policies changed during the mid 1960s which altered the process of emigration of Croats to Australia. These changes coincided with the political crackdown in the early 1970s known as the 'Croatian Spring' when tens of thousands of the Croatian intelligentsia lost their positions. The Yugoslav oppression, and decision to open its borders and give passports to Croatian people coincided with the gradual phasing out of the restrictive "White Australia policy' through changing entry criteria and the evolution of a 'multicultural' framework for society.
The 'White Australia Policy' had been an important 'pull' factor in relation to Croatian mass emigration. The first 'Immigration Restriction Act, 1901' went hand in hand with the need to "Populate or Perish" in Australian legislation. These racist entry restrictions forced government, industrial and union agents to collaborate in search of white European workers after world war two. In order to come to Australia, emigrants had to be white, naive, young, fit, healthy, and sane, with skills an unimportant last criterion. (see 'A Divided Working Class', Constance Lever-Tracy & Michael Quinlan, 1988) Medical examiners in European camps ran stringent tests in order to provide Australia with a "consistent supply of foreign labour".
During the 1960s just before the White Australia policy ended it needs to be pointed out that Croats (referred to as Yugoslavs) were popular for their racial features more than others including Southern Italians, Maltese, Greeks, Turks or Lebanese who were usually visually distinct from Northern Europeans. This unfortunate chapter in Australian immigration history as it affected migrants from Yugoslavia was extensively described in books such as 'A Divided Working Class': Yugoslavs (of which Croats were the acknowledged majority) would "scarcely be visually distinguishable from Australians of British origin".
This book also describes how these Croatian migrants were popular for other reasons besides their Northern European appearance. 'Yugoslavs' were also popular for their South-Eastern European "anti-union mentality" and poor language skills-in other words one was popular if they looked like the British but did not think like the British. These are the sort of negative forces which I mentioned at the beginning of this analysis.
Thus, since the Yugoslav borders were opened, 'stage one' could then be eliminated in the Croatian case because, at about the same time in Australia, new categories were introduced to offset the end of the racist selection of migrants, namely the 'family reunion' policy. Now Croats could emigrate to Australia directly through sponsorship of their relatives, going directly to 'stage two'.
In addition, help for continuing emigration to Australia continued, which had been instigated by Caritas agents who visited European work barracks. Catholic Immigration Officers helped Croatian emigrants to travel to Australia through the Australian Catholic Immigration Office, of which the Croatian Catholic Centers and priests were an integral part. The fee for this could be paid off later. For example, during the 1950s Australian 'Catholic Actionists' hoped that the immigration program would include Catholic peasants who could be put on government-funded settlements (The Australian, 1-2 Oct. 1994, pg 22). One Catholic activist, the late B.A. Santamaria, suggested that the Australian north could be settled by twenty million unemployed Europeans. Since Italian and Greek migration had already halted and even reversed during the sixties and seventies, Croats again would be selected as a target group.
In the end hundreds of thousands of Croats were employed in Australia in crude and dangerous conditions, initially sent to camps worse than those they had left behind, with the main difference that they were now too far away to return. Now, they must pay off their fare (not unlike indentured labour), and at this 'stage two' position, other industries advertised their need for workers, and a decision to return was put off until it was too late.


A special mention must be made of a few icons of emigration to Australia which had a major input into the changing environment.

Chain Migration

Haphazard 'chain migration' was a term later enshrined in law. The so-called 'family reunion policy', 'ujedinjenje s obitelji', needs to be seen from a Croatian perspective for what it really is--a family 'disunion' policy. Croatia is not like Sri Lanka or Fiji because it is far away from Australia and families remain split and homesickness is something that cannot be dealt with. It is through the misnomer of the Australian family reunion policy that mass Croatian emigration has bypassed 'stage one'. A couple of decades later, many of those migrants or their children may find themselves in unemployment queues asking themselves what happened to the better future hoped for because of their misconceived perception of economic improvement.

Visa Cases

Another icon of Croatian emigration is the so-called 'visa case'--those who overstay their tourist visa or end their illegal entry through marriage, thus also avoiding 'stage one' and immigration queues for entry into Australia (Hrvatski Vjesnik, Melbourne, 12 Sept. '86, pg 11).

Proxy Marriage

Another icon I will mention is the continuation overseas of Croatian 'endogamy' (marriage to your own nationality only), which is also responsible for emigration which otherwise might not have occurred, via 'proxy' marriages (less common in recent decades).

Catholic Immigration Offices

Yet another icon of mass Croatian emigration is the Croatian Catholic Center. Croatian Catholic centers created abroad by the Roman Catholic Church and the volunteer efforts of many Croatian migrants did more than to cater for the "welfare and cultural needs" of their people (see 'Croats in Australia', Tkalcevic, p.89). Unfortunately, the creation of such centers provided the Australian government Immigration Department with alternative Catholic immigration offices (see Australian telephone directories over the years). One Australian/Croatian priest in Melbourne which had migrant branches (the late Rev. Josip Kasic) regularly visited migrant camps in Australia and inadvertently facilitated a flight 'from communism' of thousands more relatives from Croatia or Bosnia & Herzegovina, including his entire family, which had remained in Croatia and B & H through all previous centuries of oppression

Immigration Law

There are some individuals in the world who have been strong advocates for immigration to various host nations. In the case of Australia, the mass post-world war two immigration process was introduced by Arthur Calwell, Minister for Immigration from 1945. As in post world war two Europe, during the 1990s, Australian immigration committees did not leave emigration from the former Yugoslavia to chance. There may have been 'push' factors during the early 1990s from parts of the former Yugoslavia, but in response, 'pull' factors were quickly translated into legislation, which directly catered for Croatian emigration. A stark contrast was offered in the case of Kosovo, (and more recently in 2003 initially in the case of East Timorese), when thousands of Albanian refugees were forced to leave Australia after a temporary respite.
Also, during the early 1990s, permanent places were offered to up to 40,000 people, including Croats already in Australia, whose temporary visas were about to run out. (Also refer to article in this website entitled, "Ethnic Balance In Croatian Region is a Priority for Peace", which analyses a comment by the Australian Immigration Minister, who claims that the 'Family Reunion Policy' won't be dominated by Asian migrants due to the large numbers which will come from relatives of those from the former Yugoslavia!)
Certain individuals have become icons in the Croatian emigration process. Dr Andrew Theophanous, a former Australian MP from the new electorate of 'Calwell' (appropriately named after Arthur Calwell), quickly and urgently focused on the refugee program at the outbreak of Serbian aggression in the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Through the efforts of Theophanous (head of the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Migration) a so-called special assistance humanitarian category was created whereby if a person had a relative in Australia, he or she could enter as a refugee (as identified by UNHCR), and in this way the majority of places in this refugee program was filled by Croatian refugees.
When Theophanous was later asked by the editor of Melbourne's Croatian Herald (HV 11 Sept 1992 pg16) whether he thought his campaign played into the hands of the Serbian chetnik 'ethnic cleansing' of Croats, he answered that countries should relieve the pressure by accepting some. (see also Spremnost Hrvatski Tjednik 18 Aug 92 p.3, or B-H Ogledalo 5 Mar 93 p.14). An obvious response to the answer of Theophanous, a self-described advocate for multiculturalism in Australia, would be to ask the question why the same policies didn't apply for Kosovar Albanians, Palestinians, black South Africans, Rwandans, and most recently the E. Timorese, all of whom, it has been alleged from time to time, needed to stay in their homelands to pressure for political change. Doesn't Croatia or Bosnia Herzegovina need people to pressure for political change?
For this ethnic cleansing of Croatia Theophanous received a medal from the obviously misinformed Croatian government. This same Theophanous, years later was lobbying for the Croatian government to build houses for the return of Serbians to Croatia , but still not for the return of Croats to Bosnia & Herzegovina , who he had already organized to bring to Australia

White Australia Policy & Industry

Another important icon or pull factor which cannot be ignored is the role of industry. The role of industry in immigration to Australia, and the link to Croatian "ethnic chains" already in Australia, is analyzed in depth in the book, 'A Divided Working Class'.
Of course, industry attracts migrants, but more cynically stated in the above book, there is a theory that industry cannot survive economically without cheap migrant labour which can be used in inferior working conditions. The high turnover rate can always be compensated for by more foreign immigrants. Whether workers involuntarily found themselves in Siberian work camps or whether they were persuaded and assisted to come to Australian camps in the White Australia policy era, the net profit for industry was the same. Croat workers were considered ideal for Australian projects, so much so, that during the 1950s and 1960s talks at meetings resulted in the projection of large-scale immigration from Yugoslavia and Turkey in particular (through special agreements). Per capita, this obviously affected Croatia more than Turkey .
For example, BHP steel wanted to ensure through such meetings that "replacements were readily available" because Southern Europeans were "eager to migrate, less reluctant to do hazardous, dirty and enervating jobs". The British weren't wanted so much because they required expensive passage assistance and accommodation as enticements. Yugoslavs on the other hand were a cheaper proposition because their "ethnic chains" took care of expenses instead of the company! Ultimately therefore it is the Croatian 'relatives' that are the necessary link, whether today, or throughout the past five decades or century, who inadvertently synthesize a variety of pull factors to bring Croats to Australia .
Interestingly also, the British government was becoming alarmed that the large numbers leaving for Australia may become "inimical to Britain's own policy of reconstruction" ... "the British authorities sometimes displayed a stubborn proclivity to declare a closed season on Australian trawling for migrants" (see, 'Old Worlds and New Australia', Janis Wilton and Richard Bosworth, pg.12 & 19). Compare the British government concern with that of the Yugoslav government which was happy to "get rid of its surplus rural labour" (A New History of Australia, Crowley ). In an article about the projected demographic changes in the world in fifty years, Bosnia & Herzegovina 's projected population growth is -0.8. In the West, only the USA shows any likelihood of stopping its decline due to its immigration. (The Australian, 27 Feb. 2003 , pg. 11).


Another icon of Croatian emigration to Australia deserves attention, and that is the censorship of its existence. In above-mentioned examples, Croats are usually described as 'Yugoslavs', etc. and one had to consult the census breakdown on immigration to separate these by religious background. Censorship or a cover-up of the identity of and numbers of Croats coming to Australia , to this day, remains the rule rather than the exception. The important point to make is that as long as Croatian emigration is portrayed incorrectly or not at all to the mainstream 'public', not even Croats themselves, or others, are aware of its size or of its continuation. (Since independence, some census information available at a cost if one orders it separately, as it is not printed in mainstream publications.)
Censorship occurs in many forms such as omission, incorrect coding, division of information, or misinformation. In Wilson 's book on 'Population Geography' published in Australia , Croatian migration to Australia was not mentioned except for the misinformation that immigration sources for Australia were Ireland , or "overpopulated" Greece , Italy and Yugoslavia . During the sixties no part of Yugoslavia was over-crowded, nor has it ever been! Other examples of censorship were in the newspapers (Herald, 2 Sept. 88, The Age, 10 April 89, or the Preston Post, 27 Sept 94, or at Melbourne's new Immigration Museum which does not mention Croats in its main permanent timeline exhibit). In the aforementioned newspapers, charts on immigrants' citizenship status, or immigrants' religion excluded Yugoslavia . In another article (The Australian, 5 Feb. 93 ) Yugoslav or Croatian 'immigration and unemployment' were ignored. In another Melbourne paper, (Herald-Sun 13 Aug. 94 ) Southern European migrants were described as "Italians, Greeks and Germans" in Camp Bonegilla in the 1950s, which described migrant huts as heartless, cramped and freezing. Just as Yugoslavia was never 'overcrowded', 'Germans' could never be described as Southern Europeans. There are too many examples to list more here.


Multiculturalism must be considered as an icon which affected the characteristics of Croatian emigration. The link between immigration and multiculturalism is as close as was the link between immigration and the White Australia Policy, decades earlier. Multicultural policies which had sanctioned and funded Yugoslav-sponsored multicultural events in Australia left the Croatian communities non-funded for decades until the recognition of Croatia . Suddenly multiculturalism for Croats in Australia had a new meaning, but this trend then came into conflict with the need to focus on the suffering of relatives due to Serbian aggression in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In contrast to other conflicts, not much international aid was raised for Croatian victims, reflecting inconsistent and biased interpretation of humanitarian laws.
Gradually, due to the coinciding of immigration and multicultural policies, the focus towards increased Croatian emigration gained strength. Croatian community building projects in Australia were given a priority over projects in Croatia , as more and more homes have been abandoned. But unfortunately, the dual policies of encouraging Croatian emigration and then censoring its actual size, and identity, have contributed to a trend away from democratization and stabilization in the Croatian region. The cost to the world community may be great if this trend is not reversed. Croatian relatives, community leaders, and the religious need to be concerned about their own role in this brain drain, this travesty of justice!

Brain Drain

Recently due to the increased quota of the Australian government for skilled migrants, an increased number of professional and skilled Croatian immigrants are coming to Australia. Some see this as having a detrimental effect on the nation left behind. According to a recent feature article in the Age entitled, 'Australia Worst Culprit in 'brain drain' Scourge', " Australia looms large in the reports both as a pioneer of the skilled migration policies now spreading through the West and as the world's largest importer of skilled workers relative to its population. In 2000 Australia was the world's biggest beneficiary from "brain gain". (Centre for Global Development report entitled 'Give Us Your Best and Brightest'--available on internet).
In the article in Melbourne 's Age newspaper (front page- 25 Oct 2005 ) it goes on to say:

Personal Perceptions of the 'Emigration Tradition'

Thus I come to the last icon, and perhaps the biggest of them all, the so-called 'Emigration Tradition' of the Croats, or to use a term coined by the theorists, 'perceptions'. Perception is a key word in any discussion on migration. Today for example, why do Croats choose to leave 'stage one' (usually Europe) where they often fled to from current Serbian aggression, and Moslems from Bosnia do not? Why did tens of thousands of Moslems choose Croatia as refugees, but Croatian Catholic refugees rush onwards to 'stage two' (overseas)? After reading the above analysis the answer should be obvious. Catholic relatives help them to go overseas, but the Moslem authorities in Bosnia publicly state that they want their people to stay where they are (see B-H Ogledalo, 5 March 93 , p.12).
Since 1991 almost every Croatian-born family I know in Australia recently has either thought of bringing a relative away from Croatia , or has actually already done so. One elderly Croatian Baba (grandmother) recently told me that she had lost more sons to Australia than to the Serbian chetniks in all wars put together. According to Dr. Jakov Gelo, Zagreb , Croatia 's growth rate (population) is the lowest in Europe, yet the 'perception' of Croats abroad is that this tragedy has nothing to do with them as individuals! (see Hrvatski Tjednik, Melb. 22 Oct 86)
Croatian people should never refer to their emigration as a 'tradition' because in the proper context of the word tradition, emigration is its opposite. Ironically, the traditional customs in Croatia are dying as a result, as the 'emigration tradition' replace them.
In the context of perception, the comparison between Puerto Rican and Croatian emigration is invalid (see paragraph under heading 'Overview'). Croatia (excluding B-H) is six times larger than the island of Puerto Rico but Croatia 's population density is fifteen times less. (The Zadar region for example has a population density of only 43 inhabitants per sq. km., 1991 census) One must imagine that one-half of the total population of Croatia was in the Zadar region only, in order to make a fair comparison with Puerto Rican migration causes. Puerto Ricans go to nearby America, of which it is a political part, but Croats migrate to foreign cultures across the seas. Puerto Rico, in spite of its emigration, has doubled its population in the last two decades, but Croatia has taken nine centuries to do this and now it is leading Europe in its decline.


Thus to answer the question of why Croats emigrate more per capita and father away than other national groups in the world pull factors must be investigated as well as push factors. Put more simply, just as important as 'why' people emigrate, is 'how' they are able to do it.
In conclusion, immigration policies of places like Australia have been designed to generate, accommodate and censor Croatian emigration and the perceptions of Croatian people have not helped them to fully comprehend their own vital role in this process. It is Croatian people who must determine their own destiny in the future by acknowledging the true causes of overseas emigration--that it is regulated by pull factors more than push factors.
Croatian people can control their personal and cultural destiny and this must begin with an open appraisal of continuing, mass emigration overseas. Over past decades many issues have been raised about discrimination against Croatian people, most of it written abroad, but ironically little has been written about the causes and effects of overseas emigration either from a personal or a national perspective. There is little doubt that the issues surrounding mass Croatian emigration to overseas host countries have been covered-up. For example, links between economic exploitation and emigrant groups abroad have been scientifically dissected in depth, but rarely have Croats been mentioned--a politically motivated cover-up which allows it to continue. Many peoples who live in worse conditions are unable to remain in Australia , but Croats through their relatives continue to come here. International law is inconsistently applied but it is up to Croatian interest groups to do something about these inequities and try to make ethical choices in their lives.
April 2003
Updated October 2005
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