Interior minister: Ukrainian refugees could exceed 22,000 in 10 days

Kristian Jaani.
Kristian Jaani. Source: ERR

Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) said on the ETV "Esimene stuudio" talk show on Thursday that Estonia could have over 22,000 people who have escaped the war in Ukraine in 10 days if the recent trend continues.

"The forecast is roughly 2,000 people arriving from Ukraine in 24 hours. The total figure could exceed 22,000 in ten days. And if we consider that this is the first wave of refugees, the second could consist of people who have no foothold in Estonia," Jaani suggested.

"We have counted on different scenarios, of course. We have calculated that in a situation where we have around 30,000 Ukrainians living in Estonia today, if every person invites, on average, 2.5 family members, we would end up with 75,000 people in terms of refugees with a foothold in Estonia," the minister said.

Jaani added that of the 12,500 refugees to have reached Estonia, 3,000 are passing through.

Over 60 percent of refugees from Ukraine are mothers with children, the latter numbering around 4,000. It is a massive challenge and one Estonia has not had to face in the past," he said.

The interior minister also said that 50 Ukrainian children have already found school places in Estonia.

He suggested that hope needs to be retained that the refugees can all return home one day.

Estonia is well aware of the dangers Russia's military aggression could spark for Europe and the country. We are seeing people fleeing the war today, while we must also consider various cyber and energy threats.

Andres Kollist (Center), director of the Tallinn University Academic Library, recently proposed giving all Russians living in Estonia Estonian citizenship.

Jaani said on "Esimene stuudio" that citizenship is already quite easily obtained. "Estonia has created many opportunities and simplified the procedure of obtaining citizenship. It requires a little effort, language training, which is something the state can offer. But the possibility of obtaining citizenship is definitely there, it is not difficult," Jaani said in comment.

"It is very important for people who are living in Estonia for longer periods of time and have a foreigners' passport – it is always safer when these people are citizens," the minister added.

Jaani pointed out that there are 69,000 people with a foreigner's passport living in Estonia today.

"Looking at that figure five years ago, we see it is consistently headed down. They are gradually obtaining citizenship."

ERR News reported on Wednesday that the Estonian Union of Weapons Owners has proposed suspending the weapons permits of all Russian citizens and those of its "allied" states. People who fit the description numbered 1,300 in 2020. Harrys Puusepp, bureau chief of the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), said the proposal is deserving of discussion.

Kristian Jaani said that an individual approach is needed. "The Weapons Act includes provisions for suspending weapons permits that can be considered a threat to national security. But these matters need to be handled individually, on personal and case-by-case basis. We have that capacity today," the minister added.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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