With almost the same number of Croatians living abroad (3.5 million) as there are living in Croatia, the country has a long history of emigration. Even today a large number are leaving in search of a better future. The interest however in returning to the ‘homeland’ is slowly starting to rise…
One year ago the government opened a ‘Welcome Office’, as part of the State Office for Croats Abroad, to help those returning integrate.
“Interest in returning back to Croatia has been big recently, despite the fact that its popular in the media to paint a negative picture of those leaving Croatia. In 2013 around 11,000 Croats returned, and that is not counting students were studying abroad for part of the year. The number returning is constantly rising, and we believe that the figures for 2014 will show an even greater number,” Ivana Perkušić from the Welcome Office told Dnevnik.hr.
People from all different generations are returning Ivana says, including students and retired folk. What especially makes her happy is the number of families with children returning.
“We are talking about people between 30 and 50 years of age who want their children to grow up in Croatia. The reason they are returning? Home is always the best – they say,” said Ivana, adding that Croatia’s entry into the European Union has helped some return.
A number of returnees open small family businesses, but also a lot decide to do bigger projects, especially in tourism. Most of the returnees are arriving from Germany, Austria, USA, Canada, Australia and South America.
The Welcome Office currently has two full-time employees, whilst the State Office for Croats Abroad employs 32 in total – who are mostly returnees. In the last 3 years the State Office has funded around 80 projects to the tune of around 3 million euros, and this year they will have over 7 million euros at their disposal for a number of projects and programmes.