Estonian police have caught five people to date who have been identified as having illegally entered the European Union through Belarus, Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) said at the government's press briefing on Thursday.
According to Jaani, Estonia has assessed the risk that it will become a transit channel for illegal immigrants heading to the Nordic countries as the biggest risk for it at this point.
"Fortunately, this threat has not materialized so far," the Center minister said.
He said that five illegal immigrants who have entered EU territory from Belarus have been caught in Estonia, two of whom have already been sent back to the country of origin, Iraq. One will be sent back on Thursday.
"It has been very easy for us to send these people back to Iraq because they have chosen to return voluntarily. One, who had come from Russia, we sent back to Russia, and Russia kindly admitted that person," Jaani said.
He added that proceedings regarding two persons were still underway at the detention center.
According to Jaani, the attention of the police is focused on EU internal borders, especially the Tallinn passenger port, as it can be believed that the aim of illegals is to reach the Nordic countries.
"But we also perform activities on the southern border. However, no changes have been registered on the Estonian-Russian border so far," the minister added.
Defense minister: Migrants also causing problems in Belarus
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said Belarusian regime leader Alexander Lukashenko might give Poland a "present" for its National Independence Day (on November 11 - ed).
"Migrants are also causing issues in Belarus. Iraqi authorities are prepared to organize return flights, but migrants have no interest in flying back. The Belarusian border guards are supported by the internal forces of Belarus, causing confusion on the Polish-Belarusian border," Laanet said.
He noted that Baltic defense ministers expressed support for Poland on Wednesday. "I spoke to the Polish defense minister today, who was thankful for our assistance. I confirmed to him that we are willing to assist in the form of real action," Laanet added.
Kristian Jaani said Poland has not yet called for Estonia's help and Estonia's goal is to solve crises where they have developed. "We are prepared to help countries suffering under the pressure of migration through the EU and directly," the interior minister said.
Jaani: Eastern border construction to be completed earlier than expected
The construction of the Estonian-Russian border has progressed very well and the structures are likely to be completed earlier than planned, Jaani said at the press conference.
"The physical border fence is already in place in the places where experts identified the highest risks of illegal border crossing. This is 23 kilometers upwards from the three-way meeting point in the southeast corner," Jaani said.
By three-way meeting point, the minister meant the point where the borders Estonia, Latvia and Russia meet. Jaani said that construction is also progressing in the next sections of the border, making up 39 kilometers in total.
"This means that work is in progress on around 63 kilometers. These are covered by valid construction contracts and work is in progress," Jaani said.
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has started negotiations to speed up the construction of the border facilities under existing terms and conditions.
"We have also brought forward several procurements concerning the construction of the border, by up to six months. The aim is to speed up the construction of the eastern border, and we have also sped up procurements of surveillance equipment," the minister said.
The Ministry of the Interior also has agreements with the Ministry of Defense for the event that it becomes necessary to set up temporary barriers at the border.
"These critical locations are known to us and we can already proactively take temporary barriers where they may be needed," Jaani added.
Prime minister: Estonia's security starts from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Estonia is deeply concerned about the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border and it is the state's position that Estonia's security starts from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
"Therefore, it is extremely important to support Poland in every way possible, and we have raised this issue in the UN Security Council, which will convene to discuss the matter today," Kallas said at the government's press conference on Thursday.
The prime minister said that she has also communicated with her Polish counterpart. "Poland has requested political support, specifically, and we are providing it at various levels," she said.
Kallas added that she was pleased to observe the president of the European Commission express her support to Poland and clearly state that this is not a migration crisis but a hybrid attack against the European Union.
"What's also important for Estonia is that in disputes on whether Europe should fund the construction of EU's external border, the president of the European Council said on Wednesday that physical funding should come from the budget of the European Union," Kallas said.
A decision is expected to be delivered at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday regarding a supplementary sanction against the Belarusian dictator, the prime minister said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste