A report published by the National Audit Office yesterday says Estonia is not ready for an increase in applications for protection as well as asylum as the state has long-term policy in place to deal with the issue. Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas says the state’s preparedness to receive war refugees has significantly increased since the audit was carried out.
According to the Government, the National Audit Office has done necessary work with regard to assessing the preparedness of the state to accept war refugees. The state has already taken most of the recommendations of the National Audit Office into account, however, state authorities must continue working in all areas that need to be improved.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said that he considers it very important that all areas would be prepared and all risks mitigated, since helping war refugees is a new experience for Estonia and people are waiting reassurance from the state. “The side glance of the National Audit Office is necessary, my rating is even more demanding than the one of the National Audit Office. State authorities must continue to work in all areas that need to be improved,” Rõivas said.
“Although the National Audit Office estimates that partial or complete preparedness will be achieved in several areas already before the arrival of refugees, I can agree with this only when all functions are perfectly in practice and the assuredness of Estonians has been ensured in terms of that the state can cope with the receipt of the war refugees,” Rõivas said.
The National Audit Office audit concerns the preparedness of the state as at the beginning of October 2015; in order to prepare an audit, the interviews with the offices were carried out last summer. Compared to summer, the state’s preparedness to receive war refugees has significantly increased. Integrating war refugees into the society of Estonia is not a one-time activity but a process to which the Government contributes on a long-term basis.
Estonia has an action plan for the resettlement and relocation of war refugees under the European Agenda on Migration, submitted to the Government by the Refugee Policy Coordination Body on October 8, 2015. Different offices cooperate closely while implementing the action plan, and the plan will be adapted according to the changing situation in the European Union and on its borders.
The receipt of the first war refugees provides an opportunity to test the preparedness of the state and shows whether there are any issues to which we should pay more attention when receiving future war refugees.
The Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Social Affairs have been consistently engaged in the availability of services, accommodation, educational issues, and childcare services. In doing so, the state’s support in ensuring language training for the children of war refugees in schools and kindergarten places have been made more flexible and need-based. A training program has been established for schools and kindergartens, where children of the new immigrant* families are studying. These schools and kindergartens were provided with need-based training in 2015.
Children from other linguistic and cultural backgrounds have studied in Estonia already for years. There are currently 15–20 children studying in Estonian schools, whose family has fled war or poverty and approximately 400 new immigrants, most of whom are studying in Estonian-language schools. Furthermore, exchange pupils, who are not proficient in the Estonian language when starting their studies, have studied in Estonian schools for years.
The Ministry of the Interior launched a comprehensive adaptation program introducing Estonian society and way of life in August. By the end of 2015, a total of 612 people had registered for the adaptation program training. A total of 35 partner organisations were involved in the development of the adaptation program, and international experience was taken into account. The adaptation program training sessions may also be carried out in French and Arabic, if necessary. Although the adaptation program is not compulsory for persons granted international protection, the Police and Border Guard Board directs all such persons to participate in the adaptation program, and the completion of this program is also assisted by a support person. A support person and public services, including the services of the unemployment insurance fund, will help people to adapt; persons granted international protection are also offered language training.
The objectives and distribution of liability of the international protection policy-making have been provided in the program of internal security development plan “Balanced Citizenship and Migration Policy”. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the implementation of the development plan in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Education and Research.
In order to carry out the activities of resettlement and relocation, on September 16, 2015, the Minister of the Interior formed the Refugee Policy Coordination Body, which is managed by Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of the Interior Raivo Küüt and comprises the representatives of the relevant offices.
Editor: M. Oll