Upon the proposal of Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) and with the approval of the government, Estonia is ending its temporarily reimposed border control along the Estonian-Latvian border on Wednesday.
Temporary border controls were reinstated along Estonia's border with Latvia on March 3 in connection with Russia launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and the subsequent influx of war refugees from Ukraine; border controls provided the Estonian state with a better opportunity to maintain an overview of those arriving in the country, according to a government press release.
The number of refugees from Ukraine arriving via Latvia has significantly decreased by now, and migration routes have changed, with most refugees now arriving in Estonia via Russia, from eastern parts of Ukraine in particular, Jaani said.
He noted that, in recent days, nearly 300 refugees a day have reached the Estonian border via Russia, while fewer than 100 have been arriving via Latvia. Almost half of these, in turn, are using Estonia as a transit country.
The reinstated border control fulfilled its purpose, and Estonia received a useful overview of people entering the country throughout the big wave of war refugees, enabling the state to more effectively guide them to the necessary services.
"The abolition of border control will not prevent people leaving Ukraine due to the war from being assisted at the border and directed to services in the future," the minister underscored. "Police patrols will continue carrying out random checks in the vicinity of the border, and if these checks identify vehicles and people arriving from Ukraine, they will be able to advise them if necessary."
As of Tuesday, May 24, Estonia has received a total of 39,802 war refugees from Ukraine since February 27. Including another 24,346 refugees considered to be in transit, i.e. planning to travel onward to other countries, a total of 64,148 refugees from Ukraine have reached the Estonian border since late February.
According to figures published by the PPA, as of Monday, May 23, the state has also registered a total of 25,693 applications for temporary protection.
Info desks in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Narva
On Friday, May 13, the PPA drew the implementation of Estonia's mass emergency response plan to a close, decommissioning the Joint Command Center for Emergency Management and handing the leading role in accepting and providing aid to incoming war refugees back over to the Social Insurance Board (SKA).
As part of the change, refugee reception centers operating in Tartu and Pärnu were replaced with SKA-operated information desks at Tallinn Bus Station, at the sites of the previous reception centers in Tartu and Pärnu, and in Narva. These info desks are continuing to distribute important initial information regarding both remaining in and traveling on from Estonia.
Info desk personnel can also help provide short-term housing to those arriving war refugees who need emergency aid, including refugees in transit via Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla