Number of people seeking asylum in Estonia drops in 2020

Part of the Russian-Estonian border in Southeastern Estonia.
Part of the Russian-Estonian border in Southeastern Estonia. Source: Mirjam Mõttus/ERR

The number of people applying for asylum in Estonia has fallen this year, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions.

A total of 37 applications for settling in Estonia on the basis of international protection have been received to November, compared with 101 through the whole of 2019.

"It seems that the numbers are moving in a downward direction," Anneli Viks, adviser at the interior ministry's citizenship and migration policy department, said, adding that most of the present-day applicants are Russian speakers.

Numbers applying for asylum rose from 2015 with the start of the European migration crisis, with a total of 337 settled in Estonia and issued with a temporary residence permit, including family members, on the basis of requiring international protection.

Under Estonian law, there are two levels of protection offered, Viks went on.

She said: "When talking about asylum or refugees, the best and more correct term is international protection. In Estonia, two types of protection are provided. One of these is refugee status, and the other is subsidiary protection status. A refugee is an individual who has been persecuted in their home country; a beneficiary of subsidiary protection constitutes one who is threatened by conflict or other inhumane treatment at home. Together, they must be referred to as being under international protection."

The bulk of those seeking international protection in Estonia have come from the Russian Federation, Georgia, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq.

Those seeking asylum as refugees are granted a three-year temporary residence permit, which will be reviewed on expiration to ascertain if the individual still requires international protection. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection get a one-year temporary residence permit, Viks said.

The number of people staying at Estonia's two refugee centers, at Vao, Lääne-Viru County and Vägeva, Jõgeva County, was reported at 28 last month, less than half the figure a year earlier.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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