Helme: Incomplete version of Aliens Act amendments circulated by media

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

An incomplete version of the Aliens Act has begun to be circulated in Estonia which unfortunately misleads the public, Interior Minister Mart Helme said on Tuesday.

On Monday a version of the draft of the Aliens Act with included amendments previously recommended by Helme (EKRE) and the Ministry of the Interior but not agreed upon by the coalition parties was published in the media. Neither the Center Party nor Isamaa approved the additional amendments at a meeting earlier this month.

"A provisional version of the draft legislation has been circulated by the media, which also some ministers have commented on already. I will introduce the final draft of the Aliens Act to members of the government at the Cabinet sitting this week," Helme (EKRE) said.

"It's extremely regrettable that an initial version of the draft legislation meant for institutional use has leaked to the media, as the dissemination of such incomplete materials misleads the public and prevents a sensible discussion among the partners. As a result of consultations that have taken place in the meantime, I will present to the government a version of the bill that is based on the agreement made in the coalition."

The Ministry of the Interior wishes to put the bill before the parliament for expedited handling.

On July 6, the three coalition parties agreed on five amendments to the Aliens Act concerning foreign students. These were additional restrictions on family members of foreign students to move to Estonia, tuition fees and the obligation to leave Estonia if the student's studies stop. 

However, the draft amendment to the Aliens Act prepared by the Ministry of the Interior contained several more amendments. One stated a foreign student may only work 20 hours a week and that a minimum wage requirement must be established for foreigners which is one and a half times the average gross monthly salary in Estonia. Both of these ideas have previously been floated by Helme but were not agreed on by the other coalition parties, Center and Isamaa.

The Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) told ERR on Monday the draft with additional amendments is largely the same as a version previously submitted by the Ministry of the Interior for approval last year which was rejected. 

However, Reps said, this draft is a long way from what was agreed by ministers at the beginning of July. She said the Center Party does not agree with the restriction of working hours or the salary condition.

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) also did not agree with the amendments Helme added.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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