First seven war refugees arrive in Estonia

View of Tallinn from the Gulf of Finland. (Martin Dremljuga/ERR)
3/29/2016 10:29 PM
Category: News

Estonia accepted the country's first seven war refugees to be relocated from Greece under Europe’s migration plan today.

The first seven refugees relocated to Estonia under Europe's migration plan include an Iraqi family of five, a single man from Syria, and a single man from Yemen, reported the Ministry of the Interior. They are slated to begin living in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia’s capital and its second-biggest city.

Deputy Secretary General for Public Order and Migration Policy Raivo Küüt reported that the refugees’ arrival in Tallinn went as expected and without any hiccups, and that they arrived via a regularly scheduled flight into the capital city’s airport.

Küüt added that the seven were immediately introduced to their support persons, with whom they traveled together to their assigned new homes.

Kaisa Üprus-Tali, adviser on social policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs, added that the refugees’ support persons would remain by their sides for quite some time. Together they will draw up plans and make lists of everything needing to be done in order to build themselves new lives in Estonia, beginning with opening bank accounts and registering with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.

“Just like everyone else in Estonia, they too must register their places of residence, find job opportunities and available spots in schools for their kids, open bank accounts, and register with a family doctor,” Üprus-Tali explained. “The support persons will help with and advise the new arrivals on these and other necessary procedures.”

“I have a request for anyone that comes in contact with our new residents — please do not forget that these are people who have fled from a country at war and arrived in Estonia through hardships,” implored Küüt. “Their hope is to find themselves a safe home here. It is important that we allow them to peacefully adjust, and that we treat them as we would any other neighbors, colleagues, or acquaintances.”

The refugees’ backgrounds

The refugee from Syria, who in addition to his native language speaks English as well, has a successful background in the catering industry. The refugee from Yemen has a degree in English and experience working in journalism.

The Iraqi father has experience working in construction and the transportation industry; his wife was a stay-at-home mom caring for their three school-aged children, who have already received some degree of education. The Iraqi family speaks Arabic.

All the refugees who have arrived in Estonia have successfully passed a background check and had interviews conducted with them in Greece which also included an introduction to Estonia and its local customs.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) will also arrange for the new arrivals’ participation in an adaptation program with a special training module designed with the particular needs of internationally protected persons in mind. The goal of the program is to help participants in the program gain a better understanding of how Estonian society works as well as facilitate speedier contact with their local communities.

Learning Estonian will play a key role in the refugees’ adaptation to their new environment, and they are slated to begin Estonian lessons at the first opportunity. The language program is made available for free to persons under international protection and designed to help its students achieve at least an A2 level of language proficiency ("basic user at an elementary level", according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

In the case of both those who have already arrived in the country as well as any additional refugees whose files are submitted for review for possible relocation to Estonia, the country’s first steps involve processing submitted information and conducting background checks, and Estonian experts thereafter conducting on-site interviews in Greece with all persons in question.

In addition to today’s seven arrivals, Greece has also submitted files on an additional twelve potential refugees from Syria, Yemen, and Iraq to be considered for potential relocation to Estonia.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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