First Afghan family arrives in Estonia

Tallinn Airport (Picture is illustrative)
Tallinn Airport (Picture is illustrative) Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The first family from Afghanistan has arrived in Estonia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) confirmed on Wednesday night.

Earlier this week, it was reported that 13 people from Afghanistan had left the capital city Kabul and were traveling to Estonia. It was not reported when they would arrive as they would be making multiple stops along the way.

Kallas wrote on social media on Wednesday evening that the first family had arrived. "I thank our diplomats and Allies, especially France for the ongoing quick evacuation operation," she said. The family worked with an Estonian NGO in Afghanistan.

The family includes six people, a mother, father and four children of different ages. Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said their lives had been in danger due to the work they had been involved with.

Estonia has agreed to accept 30 Afghans, 20 people who assisted with Estonia's humanitarian projects in Afghanistan and their families and 10 people who cooperated with NATO and the European Union and their families.

It was confirmed at a press conference on Wednesday that the first 13 Afghans are three family groups with children. The arrivals will initially be housed at Vao refugee center.

Egert Belitšev, head of the Police and Border Guard's border guard department, told ERR the Afghans will be taken to the center because they will be given privacy and support.

"All the necessary services are there - both medical care and, if necessary, psychological help, interpreters. And it allows us to conduct proceedings in a way that does not interfere with the privacy of those individuals. It also gives us flexibility, i.e. we can take breaks if necessary, allow a person to rest and so on," he said.

Belitšev said the PPA hoped the asylum claim process would be completed within 48 hours of the Afghans' arrival. He said several more families are on the way to Estonia but it is hard to give a precise arrival date.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been tasked with getting people out of Afghanistan.

As of mid-August, there were 14 people staying at the refugee center of Vao in eastern Estonia, whereas the country's second refugee center, situated in Vageva in the same region of Estonia, had no inhabitants. 

Fewer people may arrive in Estonia than planned

On Wednesday it was reported that due to the short time frame allotted to evacuate people from Kabul, fewer than 30 people may arrive in Estonia.

Ruth Annus, head of the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior, told ERR: "As the evacuation must be completed by the end of August, the window during which it is possible for these people to get out is very small. And there is the likelihood that not all of the people who cooperated with Estonian humanitarian organizations will arrive in Estonia."

Annus said Estonia is seeking help from allies to evacuate seven more people. She said it is like the 10 spaces for EU or NATO workers will be given to two families of five.

So far, Estonia has been aided by France and Poland in helping people leave Afghanistan. Estonia was part of the allied mission in Afghanistan for 18 years. 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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