According to a new Saar Poll survey conducted for the Ministry of the Interior, 55 percent of Estonian inhabitants believe that admitting refugees would have a somewhat negative effect on the country. Eight percent say admitting more refugees would be positive.
This is against a background where, in sharp contrast to other Nordic countries, only a few refugees receive asylum each year. The survey found that awareness is low as to how many refugees have been admitted (47 since re-independence) and how many applications are submitted each year (87 in 2013).
In 2013, seven people received refugee status in Estonia - about the same as in previous years. The countries most represented among applicants, all-time, are Georgia (66), Russia (63), Afghanistan (36), Syria (30) and Vietnam (30). As for successful applicants, Afghanistan comes first (17), then Russia (13), Sri Lanka and Belarus (seven each) and Somalia (four).
Compared to a similar study in 2010, attitudes have remained generally the same. Sixty-five percent say the number of people who have received asylum is "about right," while 16 percent say it is too high.
The main concerns that the public has with regard to new admissions is that the social system will become burdened, (79 percent), unemployment will increase (64 percent) and conflicts will arise (60 percent).
Forty-one percent would see intermarriage between a relative and a refugee as negative, while living next door to a refugee would be perceived as undesirable by 33 percent and 15 percent would not want to have a refugee as a colleague or classmate.
But the attitude on questions about close relatives and refugees has improved since 2010, the study authors noted.
With 51.2 million refugees in the world, more than at any time since the end of World War II, Estonia was called on during refugee awareness events last week by UN officials to admit people who have received refugee status in third countries.
Marko Aikomus, the Baltic and Nordic representative of the UN's refugee organisation, made remarks to that effect on the occasion of World Refugee Day on Friday, ETV reported.
Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur says an application comes in every few weeks from Ukrainian citizens. He says no major changes are currently planned in Estonian refugee policy.