Foreign workers in agriculture can stay in Estonia for the time being

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE).
Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

According to Interior Minister Mart Helme (EKRE), the coalition council decided on Tuesday morning that foreign workers in agriculture can stay in Estonia for the duration of the emergency situation.

Helme said that the coalition took into account the prognoses of the labor market and the financial measures implemented. The decision will see the right of employment of foreign workers in agriculture extended until the end of the emergency situation, plus additional two months, but for no longer than until July 31.

The minister added that the government based its decision on people, who are currently on a so-called forced vacation, but who hope to continue working in their current position and will therefore probably not be looking for work in rural agricultural companies.

"I predict that agricultural producers will soon face the urgent need of reducing their production. They have to understand that," Helme said.

"It is clear that the economic crisis will have an effect on the agricultural sector. Right now I feel as if agricultural operators live in yesterday - that the demand would stay in line with their production, that the need for employment would stay the same and nothing will change. But we will run out of road," Helme added.

"Hundreds of hotels have closed, thousands of tourist farms will see no clients this summer, dead catering establishments. What should these people do? I know it is hard for farmers but life was never meant to be easy," Helme said.

On Monday, the Rural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu discussed workforce issues in agriculture at a session and decided to support extending the work permits of foreign workers already in Estonia.

According to Chairman of the Riigikogu Rural Affairs Committee Tarmo Tamm (Center), the lack of available agricultural labor force; a highly topical concern in Estonia, has been alleviated by using foreign workers. "It is very difficult to rearrange work on short notice. Changes take time. We have to take into account that the crisis has changed the situation," Tamm said.

"We have to go over the provisions of the Aliens Act which emphasise that employers cannot extend the stay of foreign workers once their maximum allowed work time expires. The work permits of people already in Estonia who wish to continue working need to be extended at least until the emergency situation ends," he added.

Last Wednesday, the Ministry of the Interior presented a bill which would have ended the visas of unemployed workers from third countries (non-European Union citizens). 


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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