Minister: Estonia can take 10,000 refugees from Ukraine
Estonia could support 10,000 refugees from Ukraine, Minister of Social Affairs Signe Riisalo (Reform) said on Monday. More than 1,000 displaced people have already arrived in Estonia since Russia attacked Ukraine 12 days ago.
So far, 806 people have needed help with accommodation from the Estonian government but more than 1,400 have arrived in Estonia in total. Many people can stay with friends or relatives already living in the country.
While last week it was said Estonia could take approximately 2,000 refugees from Ukraine, the government has agreed the country can support more people.
Speaking to ERR on Monday, Riisalo said: "This was discussed at last Tuesday's cabinet meeting and the opinion reached that Estonia is ready to receive 10,000 people. This is a number that would not cause concern for Estonian society. Latvia and Lithuania are ready to relieve the same number, between 10,000 - 30,000 people."
She said the main concerns will be with the state budget as extending rights to people will mean they can access Estonia's social benefits. The minister said the EU and UNHCR are already looking at how they can help countries manage financially.
"This help is coming, but when exactly is a matter for the near future," she added.
As most refugees are coming to Estonia by land, reception starts on the southern border. Those who do not already have friends or family to stay with, are directed to reception centers in Tartu or Tallinn. If the need arises, new centers will be opened in Pärnu and Rakvere. New arrivals are being housed in hotels, to start with.
The government is also providing counseling for displaced people.
On Monday, the Police and Border Guard Board said 5,167 Ukrainian citizens have arrived in Estonia between February 27 and March 5. Of these, 799 were transiting through leaving 4,368. Approximately, a third have been children. Some people were already residents of Estonia.
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Editor: Helen Wright