Asylum proceedings for arrivals from Afghanistan not being expedited

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Afghan refugees. Source: SCANPIX / REUTERS

Estonian authorities are proceeding to grant international protection to Afghans who have fled the country after the Taliban took control last month. Processing is not going ahead on any expedited time-frame, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Liis Valk of the Identity and Status Bureau at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), told ERR that: "Our goal is to carry out procedural operations quickly, but not with a trade-off on quality of those proceedings,."

Individuals from Afghanistan, a multi-ethnic country with over half-a-dozen major national groups, and many smaller ones, arriving in Estonia were first placed in a processing center.

At present, 14 people from Afghanistan have arrived in Estonia.

Required initial procedures were performed within 48 hours, Valk went on. "Among other things, the asylum applicants were thoroughly interviewed, to make sure that there were no obvious circumstances which precluded the granting of protection. No prolonged detention was required for anyone, and they were then all placed in an accommodation center," she said.

However, some procedural steps need to be taken before the final decision to grant asylum, as the PPA could not verify all the necessary information during the initial phase, the PPA added.

"We will analyze the information gathered during the interviews when all the necessary steps have been taken," Valk said.

At the end of August, Egert Belitchev, head of the PPA's border guard department, had told ERR that the authority hopes to complete the initial processing within two days, with any longer investigation necessary if something remains unclear. "It is our job to find out all the circumstances which preclude international protection data within 48 hours, and whether international protection will be granted or not," Belichev said.

The procedure for granting asylum for international protection and legislation regulating the field of asylum in Estonia may last up to six months after the initial requirement, and may be extended for another month.

Anto Viltrop, a member of the board of MTÜ Eesti Pagulasabi and head of support services, told ERR that asylum procedures are not exceptional in order to make a decision against Afghans, although initially a faster procedure was permitted.

"The only contradiction here and there is that the fast-track procedure was initially allowed," Viltrop said. "What the reason for this is is hard for me to guess, but apparently, not all the family members of those take nfrom Afghanistan have their documents in order," he added.

Liis Valk said that the international protection procedure may take place because the police were not able to check all the necessary information during the initial period. "We process the materials submitted by people and analyze the information gathered between procedural steps. The rest explains what kind of protection a person qualifies for - refugee status or subsidiary protection. We only make protection decisions when everyone wants to act."

Representatives of the government have said that six people are in danger in Afghanistan after cooperating with the Estonian NGO Mondo, which is committed to development cooperation. In Afghanistan, Mondo has helped to promote women's and girls 'rights and to build a girls' school.

Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) has said that granting asylum to them will be done by the PPA in accordance with the procedural steps, but she expressed hope that protection will be given to them.

"Here I want not to rush into a formal decision in advance, because these procedures are done according to the Estonian law. But I hope that these people will acquire international protection from Estonia because they are in danger in their country," Liimets said.

On August 19, the government decided that Estonia would accept up to 30 Afghans who were in danger in Afghanistan. In addition to the 20 people that cooperated and their family members, Estonia is ready to accept ten more Afghans and their family members.

14 people have been brought to Estonia from Afghanistan to date, the last of whom arrived on Monday evening.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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