Estonia is to set aside €1.6 million in combating illegal immigration, interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) says, following a major influx of people into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland from neighboring Belarus, in a movement described as hybrid warfare on the part of that country's leader, Alexander Lukashenko.
Jaani said Thursday that: "The objective is to prevent irregular border-crossing in case migratory pressure should emerge against Estonia," stressing that legal border crossings will be unaffected, within the constraints of current coronavirus restrictions.
The costs also relate to the health care emergency declared in Estonia Wednesday, one which grants the Health Board the right to call on the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) for assistance in monitoring compliance with restrictions.
The decision was made at cabinet level.
"Movement on the borders remains free as the checks will be carried out at random," Jaani added, according to BNS. "In a situation where there is migratory pressure on our neighboring countries from Belarus and where the spread of COVID-19 is growing, the government has today decided to strengthen checks of COVID-19 certificates and possible irregular migration on our borders."
Some €90,000 of additional funding has also been granted to the 1247 national helpline, originally set up purely to deal with the pandemic but since then transitioned into a general advice line.
Jaani said: "The national helpline, 1247, managed by the Emergency Response Center has become an important contact for Estonian people in communicating with the state," adding that the number of calls made to the line since it was launched stands at over 250,000, with over 14,000 made in July this year alone.
1247 operators also speak English.
"It is important to keep the national helpline going because in addition to the emergency number 112, the 1247 helpline has become an important service and one that people need and expect from the state," he added.
The government also opted to allocate €698,000 from its reserve to the Ministry of Social Affairs, to cover the costs of the Health Board involving the PPA in its efforts to curb epidemic spread of COVID-19, spokespersons for the government said.
The €1.6 million will be allocated to the Ministry of the Interior from the government's reserve, while the checks will be conducted at the Port of Tallinn and at Tallinn Airport, as well as on Estonia's border with Latvia.
Estonia does not share a border with Belarus, but Latvia does.
The PPA workload will come to about12,000 work hours per month, Jaani, a former police chief, said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte