Foreign student demands compensation for wrongful expulsion from Estonia

Estonian Visa in a Ukrainian passport. Source: Toomas Huik/Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

A Nepalese foreign student who was groundlessly detained for 24 hours and expelled from Estonia last spring is seeking €100,000 compensation from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA). The police estimate she should receive €147 in damages.

Reeta Bhandari, a foreign student from Nepal, was detained after visiting her family in Finland. She is seeking compensation for non-material damages. The case is significant as it is the first of its kind in Estonia.

While Bhandari seeks €100,000 euros in compensation, the PPA has estimated the damages to the student totaled 147 euros instead.

Due to the mistake by the PPA, Bhandari will need to retake a semester at her university. However, both her and her husband's visas are about to expire - Bhandari's in August and her husband's in June.

"I am never getting back the time I lost when I was expelled from the state," Bhandari told Postimees. "My husband won't even be able to stay here with me until I graduate," she added.

The PPA expelled Bhandari in March 2019 when the student was traveling to Finland to visit her relatives whom she had also visited previously on numerous occasions. As Bhandari was planning to travel with her husband, the PPA erroneously concluded that she aimed to flee to Finland and detained her for 24 hours. The following day she was ordered to pack her belongings and return to her home country.

As the PPA did not have a legal basis for Bhandari's expulsion, she was granted a new residence permit a few months later and returned to Estonia.

She said the degrading experience has put a strain on her, as a result of which she finds concentrating at school difficult, which in turn has an adverse effect on her studies.

For that reason, Bhandari is demanding the PPA pay her €100,000 in damages for non-material harm.

Bhandari applied for damages for material and non-material harm in October 2019. The former was compensated to her in February this year. The size of compensation for non-material damages is currently being disputed in court.

While the Police and Border Guard Board has admitted to its mistake, it objects to the size of non-material harm caused to the Nepali student. 

No similar cases where a person is expelled from the state and subsequently demands compensation for either material or non-material damages have occurred in Estonia for the past five years, which makes the litigation an important one for the PPA.

Liis Valk, adviser-expert at the bureau for status and identity at the Police and Border Guard Board, said: "Decisions on expulsion by the Police and Border Guard Board ordinarily do not need to be reviewed and they have remained in effect in court and review proceedings. There have been isolated cases, but there is no precise numerical overview of them. No cases of unjustified deprivation of liberty have occurred in Estonia recently, either."

Bhandari's lawyer Aldo Vassar said the problem with compensation for non-material damage was that a person's pain and suffering cannot directly be measured in money.

"Compensation for non-material damage has to be fair for both the injured party and the party causing the damage. This is why non-material damage - their suffering - cannot be proven with concrete evidence as the extent is subjective," Vassar said.

The injured party has requested for the court to determine the size of compensation for the non-material harm caused to Bhandari. Both parties will have the opportunity to state the sum they deem fair, however, the court when making its decision, will not be bound by these sums.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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