Ukrainians arriving on night buses from Russia risk losing access to help

People at Tallinn Bus Station.
People at Tallinn Bus Station. Source: ERR

Even though information is available at border crossings, refugees arriving at Tallinn Bus Station late at night are at a loss, with some having burned through their savings. Volunteers have taken upon themselves to inform people and help them buy food and drink after the day is done.

Even though organized efforts to transport refugees to Estonia on buses have ended, the Tallinn Bus Station is seeing new refugees in transit and those aiming to stay in Estonia every day.

More refugees than previously are arriving from Russia, also on night coaches, by which time information desks and kiosks selling water and essentials are closed. People arriving at night have nowhere to go for information or making necessary purchases.

"They don't know where to go, the checkouts are closed and the bathroom is not free. /…/ They have to wait for the new day if they want to organize transport. They have nowhere to go, nor can they exchange Russian or Ukrainian currency at night, while some credit cards work and others don't," volunteer Tatjana Švetlova said.

She and other volunteers have helped refugees get food and water from a nearby shop that's open 24 hours, buy tickets and find a place to stay. Some refugees spend the night at the bus station.

We also know that people are told that refugee centers are in Tartu and Pärnu when they reach the border. What they don't know is that Pärnu is just 30 minutes from the Ikla border crossing and miss their stop. It is absurd that the Tallinn Bus Station, as a logistical hub, has no information on ways of traveling on abroad or inside Estonia," Airika Aruksaar, executive manager of ticket sales operator T grupp AS, said.

She said that while the company has offered to create an information kiosk at the bus station, government agencies have not responded.

"If you know there will be a coach carrying 20 refugees from Saint Petersburg crossing the border at Narva at 11 a.m., how difficult would it be for the government to meet that bus four hours later? They will not figure out where to go at 3 a.m.," Aruksaar said.

The Social Insurance Board said that refugees are asked what help they need on the border. However, other problems they have during their journey may not reach the board.

"In a situation where these people arrive in Tallinn and suddenly discover that they do need help, we should probably go over these border procedures. /…/ Should this become a recurring and massive issue, we will take another look at it next week, working with local governments," Mari Tikerpuu, head of the Social Insurance Board's emergency social protection group, said on Sunday.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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