Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Vladimir Svet told the ETV "Aktuaalne kaamera" current affairs program on Thursday evening that the capital's ability to receive refugees is fast being exhausted and urged other local governments to lend a hand. Svet added that the city is in talks with Baltic Sea shipper Tallink for putting up refugees on its ferries.
Around 2,000 daily refugees have reached Estonia in recent days, many of them are arriving in Tallinn. Now we hear that the city is running out of places for them. What will happen to the people?
We have at least 500 vacant places in Tallinn hotels. We do not know what will happen after they are filled. Looking at the current trend, we see that Tallinn's capacity to put up refugees is being tested and we need help from other local governments. We have taken on this initial load, set up the reception center and system post haste, but we need help from other local governments now. And the help of the Estonian people in putting up refugees.
What are the main problems in terms of coordination and logistics? Is it an issue of red tape, planning, local government cooperation, or is the state not on top of the situation?
The most serious bottleneck is that Estonia has never received as many refugees, especially not in such a short time. We need to thank everyone who has welcomed refugees to their homes. We have thousands of Ukrainians but also locals who have done that. I think we were not ready for seeing 20,000 or 30,000 people. I believe we can cope. Because we saw Anija Municipality accept 100 people when Tallinn hotels were temporarily full last night that allowed us to drive them there in the night. We can see preparedness on the part of other local governments, while we need the state to coordinate this assistance.
It is clear that we need to learn as we go. Has Tallinn prepared backup housing, for example, in sports facilities? What are plans B and C in a situation where more people are arriving all the time?
Once hotels are full, and hotels are currently our first choice, we will go to plan B. The city is in talks with Tallink that has ferries where people could theoretically be put up. We are also talking to owners or large but currently vacant rental buildings. And once all of those options have been exhausted and we have run out of volunteers willing to take people in, only then do we have evacuation locations in the form of sports facilities and schoolhouses.
Tartu also short on hotel places
Hotels putting up refugees in Tartu are also almost at capacity, and while there are several other accommodation providers willing to house refugees, the National Social Insurance Board is slow to sign contracts.
"Aktuaalne kaamera" reported that Tartu had around 200 refugees in need of accommodation on Thursday evening and has been putting refugees up in three hotels so far.
Deputy Mayor Mihkel Lees said that hotels that have contracts with the Social Insurance Board only have a few places left, adding that while there are other establishments willing to take in refugees, things are stuck behind red tape.
While the Starest hotel's 43 rooms are ready to receive Ukrainian refugees, head of the board's crisis aid department Kaisa Üprus-Tali said that hotels can wait for the board's next tender that is being drawn up. She added that documentation needs to be in order, and that refugees who cannot be put up in hotels will be found alternative housing by the board.
Editor: Marcus Turovski