Estonian refugee centers could accommodate another 88 migrants

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Vao Refugee center. Source: ERR

If Estonia was to see a sudden rise in migration, similar to Lithuania, the country has the capacity to accommodate 100 asylum seekers, daily newspaper Postimees writes.

There are 70 places in the Vao center in Lääne-Viru County and 30 in the Vageva center in Jõgeva County, and according to AS Hoolekandeteenused, there are currently 12 international protection applicants in refugee centers, meaning there is room for another 88 migrants, the newspaper reported.

Silvester Silver Stoun, adviser at the citizenship and migration policy department of the Ministry of the Interior, said that if a refugee applies for international protection, they have a legal basis to stay in the country and, as a rule, they are directed to an accommodation center for asylum seekers, which in Estonia is either the Vao center or Vageva center. As there are currently few applicants for international protection, all migrants are located in the village of Vao.

"The applicant shall remain in the accommodation center until the end of the international protection procedure, when their application is either granted, meaning the applicant obtains refugee or subsidiary protection status, or is rejected and return proceedings are initiated against them," Stoun said.

Migrants who are staying in the country without a legal basis and are subject to expulsion are placed in a detention center of the Police and Border Guard Board with a capacity of 123 people. According to Stoun, unexpected migrants can also be placed in other detention facilities.

Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) said there is currently no migrant movement on the Estonian border.

"No change in migration trends has been seen in Estonia today, nor can it be seen that migration flows have somehow moved here. If memory serves, we have caught five illegal border crossers in the area between border crossing points this year, and this number has also been falling in recent years," Jaani said.

However, due to the UEFA European Football Championship, some matches of which took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, the risk rating is medium. "The last time the World Cup took place, it could be seen that these people were trying to get from Russia to Europe with a so-called fan ID. So, this is one of the risk factors that we have been monitoring," the minister said.

Jaani said Lithuania has not asked Estonia for help in accommodating migrants, and so the government has not discussed whether Estonia would be ready to help its neighbor in this way. Jaani said that Estonia is currently focusing on helping Lithuania foremost on the Belarusian border.

In order to alleviate the European migration crisis that erupted in 2015, Estonia has received a total of 213 people in need of international protection within the framework of the migration plan. Of these, 66 were resettled from Turkey and 147 were relocated from Greece and Italy.

According to the Police and Border Guard Board, as of August 31, 2019, of the people who arrived in Estonia as part of the EU migration program, 124 resided in Estonia and 89 abroad. The ratio remained unchanged until the end of 2019. The monitoring of the share of people who arrived under the migration plan living in Estonia and outside Estonia was then stopped.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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