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Interior minister: Estonia could accommodate up to 2,000 Ukrainian refugees

Kristian Jaani, interior minister.
Kristian Jaani, interior minister. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Around 2,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine could be accommodated in Estonia, interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) says, reiterating a figure given by his ministry prior to last Thursday's invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

The pre-existing, sizable Ukrainian community in Estonia would help, Jaani said, while

"It must be taken into account that there is a very large community of Ukrainians in Estonia, whose initiative has been very good and the community is ready to take in people who have been forced to leave Ukraine as refugees," Jaani said, noting that a recent change in the regulations means that Ukrainian citizens can enter Estonia visa-free.

The Social Insurance Board (Sotsiaalkindlustusamet) will have an initial capacity of around 2,000, Jaani said, a figure which social protection minister Signe Riisalo (Reform) cited earlier this month, before the invasion.

Up to seven million Ukrainians fleeing the conflict may be making their way to the EU, the union's crisis commissioner Janez Lenarcic said on Sunday.

Jaani also said that the question of whether to issue visas to Russian nationals would be under discussion early this week and not later than Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

Latvia has already ruled that it will not issue visas to citizens of the Russian Federation.

PPA: More than 16,000 Ukrainians on short-term work permits in Estonia

More than 16,000  Ukrainian citizens are registered for temporary employment in Estonia, Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) crisis manager Egert Belitšev says.

In addition, around 10,000 Ukrainian citizens have a temporary residence permit, while 4,000 have a valid long-term residence permit, Belitšev said.

As noted, another recent ruling stated that Ukrainian citizens whose permit to reside in Estonia is about to expire, are allowed to stay for the meantime.

Belitšev said: "Since returning to Ukraine is currently dangerous and logistically difficult, we have decided to allow the temporary stay of Ukrainian citizens whose visa or other stay has expired or is about to expire. This means that these people do not have to apply for an extension of their visa or other stay," adding that the restriction of visa-free travel for Ukrainians who do not have a biometric passport has been lifted.

The PPA advised and instructed close to 50 Ukrainian national at the southeastern Estonian border on Sunday, Belitšev says, adding that information on temporary residence, residence in general and working in Estonia, as well as on first aid and other pressing matters was within its remit.

Emergency accommodation should be sought via the Social Insurance Board and NGO the Estonian Refugee Council (MTÜ Pagulasabi).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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