Croatian Diaspora in Swiss Confederation
Number of Croats and their immigration
A significant number of Croats started immigrating to Switzerland in the mid-sixties of the 20th century but majority came in the late seventies and early eighties (economic reasons) and during and after the War of Independence during the 90s of the last century. Regarding the level of education, the first generation mostly consisted of low skilled workers whereas the second generation has more higly-skilled professionals. At the end of the 60s there was labour shortage so a large number of Croats got a job in Switzerland. Most of them were engineers and doctors.They worked in the industrial regions, such as Zurich, Basel and Aargau cantons.
For the last fifteen years, Croats who immigrated to Switzerland were mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially from Bosanska Posavina and Herzegovina. They settled in industrial towns of Switzerland. Not many Croatian citizens have recently immigrated to Switzerland due to quota system.
According to the official data of November 2020 of the Swiss Bureau of Statistics there are around 28,966 Croatian citizens living in Switzerland. As the number refers to persons who have only Crotian citizenship, and based on the estimates of the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Bern, Croatian Catholic Missions and the Croatian community, it is believed that there are around 80,000 Croats living in Switzerland. Their official number is falling which is the result of naturalization, i.e. acquisition of Swiss citizenship. Although there are Croats living in all Swiss cantons, most populated are Zurich, Aargau, St. Gallen, Bern, Ticino (Tessin), Luzern, Solothurn, Basel, Schaffhausen and Wallis.
Status of Croats in Switzerland
One of the priorities of the Swiss Government is integration of the foreign nationals into the society. Croats in Switzerland have equal rights as other nationals who live and work in Switzerland. Protocole III on freedom of movement closed between Switzerland and EU that came into force on 1 February 2017 enabled all Croatian citizens to enter the country without visa and to stay in the country up to three months. A permit is required for a longer stay and it is issued by cantonal office for migrants. You need a valid passport or identity card to enter the country. Regarding work permits, provisions on annual quotas are in force until 2023. At the end of 2021 three year long period finishes. Then the the Swiss Government will decide whether to lift or continue to restrict the access to the Swiss labour market for the citizens of the Republic of Croatia.
Croatian associations and organizations
Croats gather in cultural and sports associations, but they are not organized under an umbrella organization. During the War of Independence Croats from Switzerland helped Croatia through numerous associations, especially providing humanitarian aid. There are about 80 cultural and sports associations in Switzerland. Besides many associations Croatian Social Service in Croatian should be mentioned, which was established by the Catholic church of Aargau canton. Its aim is to help Croats to get informed about Swiss regulations and about their economic, social and family rights. The Service is active in Buchs, in St. Gallen canton.
Croatian pastoral care abroad
There are 12 Croatian Catholic Missions in Switzerland. The beginning of pastoral care dates back to 1951 when Fr Lucijan Kordić occasionally did missionary work among Croats in Switzerland. In 1961 he was officially appointed in Rome to be a Missionary for Croatian Catholics. First Croatian Catholic Mission was established in Zürich in 1967. Croatian Catholic Missions are located in Aarau, Basel, Bern, Frauenfeld, Lausanne, Luzern, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Ticino, Trimmiso, Zug and Zürich. Their activities and locations are spread across Switzerland. They take care of spiritual needs of Croatian emigrants, but also of the preservation of their Croatian identity and culture. Missions are engaged in charity work as well, providing assistance to Croats who come to Switzerland, but also to the poor and socially vulnerable persons in the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatian Catholic Missions and their members in Switzerland helped Croatia and its citizens generously during the War of Independence. Many missions have their libraries, and their newsletter “Movis“ is published quarterly and is sent to 15,000 addresses.
Before the Republic of Croatia became an independent country missions had a special role as they contributed to preservation of Croatian identity through religious, social and cultural events. With the change of historical and political conditions the significance of the Croatian Catholic Missions has gradually changed as well as the attitudes of certain segments of Croatian migrants. A more traditional part of Croatian migrants still gather at the Missions.
Croatian classes and courses of the Croatian language
Croatian classes have an important role in cherishing Croatian language and culture as well as Croatian identity in Swiss Confederation. The classes are within the competence of the Ministry of Science and Education. In 2020/2021 school year there were 13 teachers who held classes fro 631 pupils at 53 teaching locations. Since 1990 when the Croatian school was established, the number of attendees has been decreasing. The classes of religious education are held in Croatian Catholic Missions.
At the University of Basel, Bern, Freiburg and Zürich there are departments for Slavic languages but they are not within the competence of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia.
Publishing and Media
Today there is only one portal providing information for Croatian immigrants: Moja Domovina www.moja-domovina.net
The most popular magazine is Movis www.movis.ch, published by the Croatian Catholic Mission.
Bilingual magazine Libra www.hkk-libra.com is published by Croatian culture club and Društvene obavijesti www.hkz-kkv.ch, newsletter published by Croatian culture society twice a year.