Ministers embark on round-trip to discuss refugee question with local authorities
Minister of Internal Affairs Hanno Pevkur and Minister of Social Protection Margus Tsahkna will meet the representatives of local authorities across Estonia to address concerns about refugees and migration.
The meetings, scheduled for Jõhvi and Tartu today and Pärnu and Tallinn on Wednesday, will be attended by over 100 governors on county, town and municipality level.
"Just like Estonia is showing solidarity with the EU in solving the refugee question, local municipalities can show solidarity in helping refugees in Estonia," Pevkur said.
Since it is the municipalities that will carry the weight in a resettlement of refugees, it is important to listen to their views and suggestions, he added.
"We must be proactive in ensuring that refugees assimilate into Estonian society," Tsahkna said. "To achieve this task together, we must share information, introduce our plans and listen to the concerns of local municipalities," he added.
In addition to the two ministers, the meetings will be attended by experts from the interior, social, culture and education ministries.
Tsahkna told ERR this afternoon that the refugees will not come to Estonia all at once, but gradually over two years.
He said that before refugee families will be flown to Estonia, an accommodation will be sought and supporting social workers arranged. According to the minister, there will be no lack of housing.
“We want to take a flexible approach and find the best way to integrate each family,” he said.
Estonia will accept 20 people that have already been granted refugee status by the United Nations, as well as 130 displaced persons that are currently held in Italy and Greece and have not been given the legal status yet. Those people will have to go through the identification and fingerprint process, which Estonia will conduct in cooperation with Italian and Greek authorities.
“We will check these people on the spot, after which Estonia will grant them legal protection. There will be no refugee camps in Estonia,” Tsahkna added.
It was decided at a meeting of the interior ministers of the European Union in Brussels on Monday that the union will help 60,000 displaced persons, of whom Estonia will resettle 150.