Local governments: Different views how to spend refugee support money (1)

Haapsalu, lcated on Estonia's western coast, is one of the cities in which newly-arrived refugees will be settled in Estonia. (Andi Veskioja/minupilt.err.ee)
5/2/2016 11:47 AM
Category: News

The state pays local governments €3,000 for every refugee or asylum seeker that settles in their area. It’s up to the local authorities to decide how to spend the money. Haapsalu, Tallinn and Tartu have different views.

Of the more than 500 refugees Estonia has agreed to take in under the European Union’s quota, 19 have arrived so far. They have settled in Tallinn, Tartu and Haapsalu, ERR’s radio news reported.

With every new arrival, Estonia receives €6,000 from the EU, half of which is handed on to the local government of the area where the refugees take up residence. What exactly they do with this money is up to the local authorities - and they haven’t decided yet.

Haapsalu deputy mayor Kaja Rootare (Reform) said that the €15,000 the city received for the five people who settled there would likely be put aside to cover costs as they occur. Rootare stated that she expected people to need this money to buy household necessities, furniture and potentially children’s clothing.

Tartu deputy mayor Arjom Suvorov (Center) found that it was the state who should cover the cost of furnishing apartments. To cover first costs, support persons received €300 to spend on each new case. Clothes could be requested via the city’s social support.

He pointed out that refugees had all the same rights to support and other services as the city’s residents. According to Suvorov, Tartu isn't planning to make exceptions or allocate more money from its budget.

In his opinion, the money should be spent to pay the city’s officials, as they have to deal with people directly and could be paid a bonus. According to the deputy mayor, Tartu doesn't have full-time employees to deal with refugees. The money could also be used to train employees.

Tallinn deputy mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) brought up the topic of cultural integration. While he thinks the money wouldn’t be enough to cover first necessities as well as furniture, he could imagine spending it on projects that teach new arrivals about Estonia and local customs.

Triin Raag of the Ministry of Social Affairs confirmed that it would likely be easier for larger local governments to plan how to use the money, and that this particular sum could be used for larger projects as well.

Currently the state takes on most of the responsibilities concerning arrival and accommodation of refugees. The Ministry of Social Affairs is hoping to leave more responsibility with local governments, which is why the latter expect financial support to increase beyond the sum of €3000.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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