Over the last few years Estonia released 11 illegal residents, as they were not deported within 18 months and there was no legal ground to keep them detained.
An illegal immigrant can be held in custody for a period of up to two months. This can be extended by two months at a time until the legal limit of a total of 18 months is reached.
Following EU legislation, if the state can’t deport them within this time, it can’t hold them any longer. In the case of the 11 illegals released from Harku Detention Center over the last few years, two are Russian and nine are Vietnamese.
Head of the Citizenship and Migration Board, Maige Lepp told ERR that after their release, the status of the illegal immigrants hasn’t changed. According to Lepp, the nine Vietnamese citizens have left the country, while the Russian citizens are still here.
“They have to check in with our office regularly. We follow their actions, when they’re here and when they leave,” said Lepp.
Illegal immigrants have only limited rights. For example, they’re entitled to medical help, but they can’t work or apply for social benefits.
This last point is important, as the EU’s directive to free illegal immigrants if they can’t be deported within 18 months could be seen as a legal loophole to make it into Europe and the Schengen area.
Anni Säär of the Estonian Human Rights Centre said that though 11 people within a few years weren’t a lot, the number could be expected to increase.
“Now is the time to think about what will happen next. It’s understandable that the state doesn’t want to hand out residency permits, these people don't qualify. At the same time, releasing people without giving them the chance to work and lead a law-abiding existence could lead to a higher crime rate. After all, they need to eat,” Säär said.
She went on to say that there were several problems connected with this. The people in question would need social support, and a long-term plan would be needed to integrate them as well.
According to the Police and Border Guard Board, the main reasons why illegal immigrants can’t always be deported within less than 18 months is the work it takes to communicate with their countries of origin, and the fact that they refuse to disclose their identity.
Editor: Dario Cavegn