Tartu volunteers find bottlenecks in refugee arrival process

A pram.
A pram. Source: ERR

Volunteers in Tartu say they are filling gaps left by government agencies during the reception and registration of Ukrainian war refugees in Tartu.

While there has been a big emphasis on helping new arrivals, some people staying in hotels have not managed to get the things they need such as cots and prams, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Saturday. Volunteers have started trying to help.

The volunteers think the Social Insurance Board, which was initially dealing with the reception of refugees, is acting too slowly.

Volunteer Eveliis Padar said it has been disorganized and the agency is not acting quickly enough. One example she gave was that families at one hotel did not have prams.

Verni Loodmaa, chairman of the board of the Pallas and Sophia hotels, confirmed this but said things were better now.

"Of course, when they came on the first day, they didn't have any buggies, but we have buggies of different sizes. We put boxes in the receptions where they can write what they need, and you know it works very well," Loodmaa said.

While volunteers believe support is too slow from the Social Insurance Board, Loodmaa said it has worked well. Padar said getting support to people is too slow.

"I have received information that the Social Insurance Board has sent messages to people asking them not to take things to hotels, which is understandable that we do not want things to pile up, but this is not the best way to take advantage of the enthusiasm and willingness of volunteers," she said.

In a bid to speed up the process, volunteers started collecting donations at Jaanikirik on Saturday. Discussions were also held about cooperation and how to take it to those in need.

Simone Epro, the head of accommodation at the southern region of the Social Insurance Board, said in this case the information was sent to the agency on Friday night. Donations could not be taken to the hotel's door and things cannot just be sorted on the spot.

She said the agency is currently working with the Refugee Council, Tartu City Government, volunteers from the Naiskodukaitse and the Social Insurance Board.

"We are trying to find a common solution. These volunteers have not yet entered into a cooperation agreement with us. But hopefully, this will happen," Epro said.

So far, 20,000 refugees have arrived in Estonia, with a third being children. The majority have been taken to Tallinn but a number have also arrived in Tartu, which has a population of approximately 93,000. Initially, the council said it could help 1,000 people.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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