Estonia to accept up to 30 Afghan refugees

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Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia will accept up to 30 refugees and their immediate family members from Afghanistan who have cooperated with Estonia, NATO or the European Union, the government agreed on Thursday.

The coalition said 20 spaces will be for people who cooperated with Estonia and their family members and 10 for Afghans who cooperated with NATO and the European Union.

"The situation in Afghanistan continues to be tense. After the end of the US evacuation mission on August 31, safe evacuation of people may no longer be possible, which is why all countries must take urgent action," said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).

She said Estonia is willing to accept, among others, midwifery trainers who have worked for development NGO Mondo MTÜ and activists for girls' education and women's rights.

"We will focus on helping those who have been involved in Estonia's assistance programs in Afghanistan and thus offered better opportunities for development for Afghan women and the youth," Kallas said.

The Police and Border Guard Board will decide who is admitted to Estonia on the basis of the International Protection of Aliens Act.

The procedure for granting international protection will be carried out as soon as possible, the government's communication office said.

There are not thought to be any Estonian citizens in Afghanistan but several people with Estonian residence permits have applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and need help returning to Estonia. The ministry is working with Allies to help them get on to evacuation flights.

Earlier this week the government announced it would accept 10 Afghans who have worked with the EU or NATO as well as people who had worked with NGO Mondo. A total number was not announced at the time.

Defense minister: Estonia cooperating with allies in assisting Afghan interpreters

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said Estonia is offering its allies cooperation in assisting Afghan interpreters.

Laanet said at the government's press conference on Thursday that interpreters were generally not attached to a specific unit. In this way, one interpreter could work with several units.

While serving in Afghanistan, Estonian units came into contact with at least 200 interpreters, and none of them were attached to Estonian units. Members of the Estonian defense forces communicated with interpreters only using their first names. The interpreters' full names and information were recorded by the partner countries to whom the Estonian units handed over the calculation of the interpreter's working hours.

"For several days already, we have been communicating with allies with regards to interpreters who have cooperated with us to offer our help when needed. We are ready to help the people who have helped us," Laanet said.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add quotes from the Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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