Estonia sees the fewest asylum seekers and fewest refugees in the European Union. Although the number of people applying for asylum in Estonia is growing, there were only 97 applicants last year. Only seven received a positive answer.
Currently five EU nations - Germany, France, Sweden, UK and Belgium, - take in the bulk of refugees, said Cecilia Malmström, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, at a refugee policy conference in Tallinn last week, adding that asylum seekers prefer locations closer and that are more prestigious, or where there is already exists a community of the same nationals.
Rutt Annus, head of the interior ministry's migration and border policy department, said many people fleeing are economic, not political emigrants.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said the country is not yet ready to join the UN's refugee resettlement program, which the UN has proposed to Estonia, adding that the country is ready to accept Ukrainian refugees if the situation there escalates.
The Secretary General of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Michael Diedring, said Estonia should focus on bringing refugees to the labor market, which will make them part of an active society. They will also then pay taxes and have motivation to learn the local language.
The level of legal help given to refugees in Estonia, including translation services, was criticized at the conference, as well as the facilities where migrants are held until a decision has been made or an appeal heard.