Postimees: Russia may be redirecting refugee flow toward Estonia
The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) received a report from Russia late last week that three refugees of Bangladeshi origin with plans to enter Estonia were detained in the border town of Ivangorod, across the river from the northeastern Estonian city of Narva. When several dozen Vietnamese with similar plans were thereafter discovered in the city as well, the PPA placed themselves on a higher state of alert.
Estonian daily “Postimees” reported (link in English) that this may be the first serious warning sign that the flow of migration from Russia which has been troubling northern neighbors Finland and Norway over the past five months, only ceasing in early March, may head south, and the first border checkpoint it would then encounter would be in Narva.
According to Janek Mägi, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s Citizenship and Migration Policy Department, several important factors must coincide for the Finnish and Norwegian scenario to repeat itself in Estonia.
The simplest scenario would involve Russia scaling back border surveillance on their side of their shared border and word getting out that it is possible to travel via Estonia to other points in Europe, either to the Nordic region or south, toward Poland; if news of this possibility were to spread and people were allowed free access to the Russian side of the border, masses of refugees may begin to move.
The odds of this happening are low in his opinion, however, as sooner or later even asylum seekers would see through the lie, and that, for example, it would quickly become clear that applications for asylum submitted in Estonia would be processed in Estonia as well, that it is not so simple to receive international protection, and that it would not be possible ti simply move on from Estonia to another European country.
“Another thing that would get the masses moving is if a major operation to apprehend illegal immigrants were to be conducted in Russia, or if they decided not to extend the residence permits of a specific segment of people,” explained Mägi, adding that people would then be faced with two options: to either move back or move forward.
According to Mägi, the PPA has a contingency plan in case of crisis.