Pärnu war refugee reception center to open Monday
A new refugee reception center is to open in Pärnu on Monday to serve those fleeing the war in Ukraine. The center is to be housed in a former Pärnu police house, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday.
Pärnu is the nearest town of any size to the border crossing at Ikla, in the southwest of the country.
Kaido Kõplas, Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) western prefecture chief, told AK that the new center will offer: "Covid tests, we talk, we find out what social help people need, whether they need medical care.
"We will provide them with a personal identification number and give them temporary protection if they want it," Kõplas went on.
"We will direct to the local government those who want further aid, such as finding kindergarten and school places, medical help and job offers," he added.
While many people are in a difficult situation, Kõplas said, the center should do what it has set out to.
As to numbers and routes of arrival, he said that: "We know there are eight to ten buses that bring them, and we can plan, help and guide these people already on the bus."
"We have a request for those people who plan to collect Ukrainian refugees themselves to take them to Estonia - please let us know by phoning 1247. / ... / It is important how many refugees they have on board and where they are going, so that we can already have information on the way and start planning our activities," Kõplas went on.
Ukrainians already resident, some of them long-term, in Estonia have also been helping out.
One, Alexander Gushlevsky, told AK that: "I am a Ukrainian, I have lived here for four years. But there are also many Ukrainians who were born here. We are all helping together. I have been here [at the center] for five days now. The [Estonian] state approached us recently, asking for help, and we have 30 volunteers now."
Members of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) have also been helping out.
One Defense League member, Urmas Abram, said the organization had "Had a call inviting those who speak Russian to come."
"This is the third time in the third week. I am on the Latvian border; I can't come to town every day, but when I finished work [that day] I came here, through to the evening."
Each bus carries around 15-20 people, with journeys from the Ukraine-EU border running daily. One of the main border crossings between Estonia and Latvia is at Ikla, around 60km south of Pärnu, where the arrivals get sent to for processing.
Kõplas said the intention was to have all the services under the one roof.
The national government has been calling for more centralization and coordination in the refugee effort, involving established NGOs and away from efforts made so far by private citizens on their own initiative.
Revised figures published by the PPA on Saturday state that over 19,000 people fleeing the war have arrived in Estonia so far and have not subsequently moved on, since the conflict began on February 24.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte