First Ukrainian refugees arrive in Estonia

Ukrainian flag.
Ukrainian flag. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Almost 100 people who have fled the war in Ukraine arrived in Estonia on Monday by bus from the Polish-Ukrainian border.

The majority have come to stay with friends or family members already living in Estonia, the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement on Monday evening. Those without relatives will stay in Tallinn.

"Just as the Estonian people were once helped, it is now our turn to offer support to the Ukrainians fleeing war," said Minister of Social Security Signe Riisalo (Reform). 

"The country is working together with local authorities and civil society and we are doing everything in our power to help."

Minister of the Interior Kristjan Jaani (Center) said the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) have been communicating with and offering assistance to 270 Ukrainian citizens who have entered Estonia over the last two days.

"Among them are those who are already living in Estonia, Ukrainians passing through Estonia and also war refugees who want to stay here temporarily," he said.

The Social Insurance Board is providing round-the-clock psychological support while Tallinn is funding the first few nights of emergency accommodation.

Madle Timm, communications manager at the Estonian Refugee Council, said more buses will depart for the Polish-Ukrainian border in the coming days.

Ukrainian citizens can stay in Estonia without a visa and it is not necessary to apply for international protection on arrival.

Offers of support can be submitted to the Estonian Refugee Council here.

Last week, Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu were preparing for the arrival of refugees. The government has previously said it can accept up to 2,000 people.

First people in need housed in Tartu

Tartu town hall. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Six mothers and children who came to Tartu to attend the Miss Valentine gymnastics tournament have been offered accommodation in Tartu as they cannot return home.

One of the group, Marjana told ERR's Tartu correspondent said she had been "shocked in a good way"

"People are so open and there is help and support coming from everywhere," she said, adding this is her first time in Tartu.

Marjana said if it was possible she would have already returned to Ukraine but it is best to stay in Estonia for the time being.

"For me as a mother, the most important thing is that my child has a place to sleep and something to eat," she said.

The city government is also preparing for more arrivals. Deputy Mayor Mihkel Lees said they can immediately offer 200 beds in Turu sports building but it is also possible to find more space if is needed.

Since war broke out on February 24, hundreds of private citizens and companies have contacted the Estonian Refugee Council every day to say they can offer refugees accommodation.

Anu Viltrop, the head of refugee support services, said many of these offers were from Tartu.

"We can offer a room in an apartment, we can offer an apartment, we can offer a house, we can offer various services. We also offer jobs," she said.

Tartu Student Village is also mapping its availability in student dormitaries.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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