The refugee center in Pärnu, opened a week ago, is working smoothly having overcome initial difficulties. Estonia had received over 24,000 refugees by Sunday morning.
Not all employees and volunteers were used to their tasks during the first days the center was open that led to considerable waiting times. Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo said that work at the center has now been streamlined almost to perfection, while there is always room for some improvement.
"We have 240 people from the Social Insurance Board alone working 24-hour shifts, about as many from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), plus all the volunteers. An insane amount of work hours all together. My deepest thanks to everyone. Movement of refugees from one service to the next has been organized very smoothly," the minister said on Sunday.
Riisalo said that the problem is finding people permanent lodging. Refugees who pass through the reception center have temporary protection and can do everything that people with a temporary residence permit can in Estonia.
"They have access to services and support that allow the person to cope independently. Of course, we need to help them find an apartment, urge them to get a job and make sure children get school and kindergarten places, hopefully in Estonian schools and nurseries," Riisalo said.
Estonia had received 24,086 Ukrainian war refugees by Sunday morning and more are coming. However, a point will come where Estonia needs to decide that it can accommodate no more.
"But we cannot simply close our borders. Citizens of Ukraine have visa free travel in any case that gives them three months. And just as the European Union temporary protection mechanism provides, they are entitled to that protection here, at least for a period of one year," the minister explained.
Employees of the Pärnu reception center are also pleased with the progress made.
"Compared to the first days, people had to wait in line for hours. Today, we have managed to process some applicants in under one hour. The center is working, people know what they need to do, and things are progressing smoothly right now," Eivo Evertsoo, shift supervisor at the Pärnu refugee reception center, said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski