Estonia's refugee reception system unable to handle wave of applications (3)

The refugee accomodation center in Vao village, Lääne-Viru County (Virumaa Teataja/Scanpix)
5/28/2015 11:22 AM
Category: Politics

Estonia's national refugee reception system is not efficient enough to handle a large number of relocated asylum seekers, the head of NGO Estonian Refugee Council, Eero Janson, told ERR.

Estonia would struggle the most with processing the estimated 768 applications and finding suitable accommodation for the people, who could be relocated to Estonia, in accordance with the European Agenda on Migration.

Moreover, a change in legislation came into force in April, which leaves refugees unable to work for the first six months since their arrival. "So, they have to, essentially, live off the state for the time it takes to process their application and there is nothing they can do about it," Janson said.

In Janson's opinion, Estonia is not capable of handling 768 applications the European Council proposed it should receive over the next 24 months. "In the last 18 years, Estonia has really only accepted less than 700 refugees altogether," Janson explained, adding that the situation would not be fair to the refugees, relocated by the EC's measures, either.

"Accepting those refugees means that we have to have a functioning reception system in place," he said. "Neither should it become a lottery, with those sent to Sweden by the sorting hat being the lucky ones, and those coming to Estonia rather less so."

"National refugee and reception systems in the EU differ to a great extent, so as it stands, the quota system is not the best way to distribute asylum seekers," Janson found.

NGO Estonian Refugee Council has previously called on Estonian policymakers to revise national asylum policies and the current reception system.

The European Commission (EC) proposed migrant quotas on Wednesday, under which each individual European Union member state should provide safe haven for certain number of refugees. According to the plan, Estonia should admit 738 people currently in Italy and Greece. In addition, the commission has also recommended EU members to resettle 20,000 people from outside the EU, in which case Estonia's share would be 326 displaced persons.

Estonian ministers and practically all political parties oppose the quota. The government's official position is due on June 16.

M. Oll

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