Police want to tighten up migrant quota distribution criteria

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PPA migration service center in Tallinn. Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) wants to codify the criteria for issuing residence permits under Estonia's migration quota, to avoid what it calls somewhat of a lucky draw in issuing permits under the current system.

In recent years, the number of people applying for a temporary residence permit (TRP) has been significantly higher than the immigration quota for that year, set at 1,315 for 2021, the PPA notes.

The PPA is responsible for issuing TRPs, which are issued both to those who come to Estonia to study, and to work. The second of these categories is causing the PPA the most headaches, the authority says.

Migrant quota 1,315 people for 2021

The migrant quota refers to those coming to live in Estonia from so-called third countries, a loosely-defined list primarily comprising non-EU/EEA countries and a few other nations including the U.S. and Japan. The cap is set by domestic government, and is also separate from the EU's migration quotas established in the wake of the migration crisis from 2015 onwards.

The 2019 and 2020 quotas were reached within a few days of the new year.

The PPA has suggested the interior ministry institute a more comprehensive way of distributing permits under the terms of the quota, rather than expanding the quota, to give priority to those the Estonian state would find useful for its needs.

PPA: Main problem is employment contracts being terminated early

The PPA also says that this is reflected in the numbers of people who subsequently have their TRP revoked, for whatever reason, primarily due to employment contracts expiring.

The PPA wrote: "We took a sample of the number of people who received a residence permit on the basis of the immigration quota in 2019 and 2020, and found that a total of 433 people have already had their residence permit revoked."

"The main reason for this is that employment relationships end prematurely. This means a significant part of this year's and last year's immigration limit has been apportioned to persons who do not actually stay in Estonia," the address continued.

Agriculture and construction two key areas

While some TRP allocation is set aside for specific people, with a little under 55 granted to sports, cultural or academic individuals, the bulk of the permits are not regulated in a similar way, the PPA says.

While the Aliens Act, the main piece of legislation dealing with immigration, sets out requirements to employers of third country nationals, no minimum employment contract duration has been legislated for, the PPA says.

Estonia's migrant quota is set at 0.1 percent of the permanent population, which comes to 1,315 people for 2021.

In practice many of those who take a TRP for work, rather than study, purposes are seasonal workers in the agricultural sector, or work on construction sites, both areas which can see employment contracts coming to an end at a time different from that projected.

Ukraine is one of the largest countries of origin for migrants in these sectors. The coronavirus pandemic has rendered the situation even more complex, and in summer, several Ukrainian agricultural workers were deported from Estonia after being charged with violating quarantine regulations.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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