Two refugees who recently arrived in Estonia through the EU's relocation program filed lawsuits against the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) for not granting them refugee status, Postimees reported on Monday.
Two refugees that recently arrived in Estonia through the EU's relocation program filed lawsuits against the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) for not granting them refugee status, Postimees reported on Monday.
Like all other refugees who arrived through the EU relocation scheme, the two refugees were granted subsidiary protection status including a one-year residence permit, which can be extended after re-evaluating individual cases before the expiry of their living permits.
Subsidiary protection status to avoid having to place refugees in a camp
Subsidiary protection means international recognition for persons who do not qualify as refugees, but for whom it isn't safe to return to their home countries because of potential danger to their lives.
Instead of putting them up in camps while examining their cases, the PPA said it had adopted a policy of granting refugees subsidiary protection status with a one-year residence permit.
“To use our resources as efficiently as possible, we had the basic principle that we grant people protection for one year, and reassess their status after a year, when we extend it,” Margit Ratnik, an official in charge of Police and Border Guard’s identity and status department, was quoted by Postimees as saying.
As the paper wrote, following this, the officials in Greece focused on threats against the person they were interviewing. If there was no danger and the refugee was from a conflict zone like Syria, Yemen, or Iraq, it was possible to make the decision to grant protection quite quickly. Whether or not that person would qualify for refugee status would then be evaluated after a year.
Janson: Longer residence permit contributes to integration
But while the PPA planned to reassess refugees’ individual cases after a year, director of the Estonian Refugee Council Eero Janson told ERR that several social studies had proven that refugees felt safer and were more likely to succeed in the integration process when granted refugee status.
“Temporary residence permits will make them less willing to invest their time and money in the country, as they are worried about the possibility of being sent back to their home countries," Janson said.
"European law clearly states that EU members have to study the refugees’ cases and determine if they qualify for refugee status."
However, Janson also said that there was an upside to this policy as well, as it gives the refugees the right to have their own apartments without staying in camps or reception centers for months.
"I think they should stick to the current mechanism, but make some changes to the current law in terms of starting the procedure of assessing the cases not after a year, but right after the refugees arrive in Estonia," Janson concluded.
Meanwhile the PPA changed its policy. Starting this month, they will assess asylum seekers' cases while they are still in Greece, Italy, or Turkey and decide whether they qualify for refugee status.
Estonia has so far received 19 out of the 550 refugees it pledged to take in under the European Union's relocation program, a scheme adopted by EU member states to address the largest influx of refugees into Europe since World War II.
Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn