The share of Ukrainians crossing the eastern border from Russia to Estonia during the first quarter of 2022 has tripled, data from the Ministry of Interior shows. In general, the number of arrivals is similar to 2020.
During the first four months of 2022, a total of 233,454 people crossed into Estonia via the eastern border in Narva. This is four times more than in 2021 — during the coronavirus pandemic — but still less than half as many as in 2020, pre-pandemic.
The data was shared with the Riigikogu in response to questions raised by EKRE MPs Jaak Valge and Anti Poolamets.
Between January and April 2021, only 64,139 people crossed the eastern border into Estonia.
"At the same time, it must be taken into account that in the first half of last year significantly stricter restrictions were imposed on entering Estonian in connection with preventing the spread of the coronavirus," Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) said in a written reply to the MPs.
In comparison, the ministry said that 526,424 people had crossed the border from Russia during the same time period in 2020.
More arrivals than departures this year
The data shows more people are arriving in Estonia than leaving through the border point in 2022. This is likely due to sanctions imposed on Russia.
While 233,454 crossed into Estonia between January and April this year, 194,762 crossed into Russia. The number was similar last year, the ministry said.
In the same period in 2020, before most of the coronavirus restrictions were introduced, 526,424 people entered Estonia and 531,455 people left.
Number of Ukrainian arrivals has significantly risen
The number of Russian and Ukrainian citizens crossing the border has noticeably increased, the data shows.
During the first four months of last year, 55 percent of crossers were citizens of the Russian Federation and this has now risen to 62 percent. Of these, 64 percent have residence permits.
Looking at other nationalities, only 2 percent were Ukrainians in 2021 but this year the number has risen to 7 percent. In total, 15,655 crossed the border between January and April and the majority — 10,492 — said they were in transit.
Last year, 1,385 Ukrainians crossed the border between January and April.
The number has risen this year as Estonia has become a major transit country for deported Ukrainians fleeing Russia.
The share of Estonians crossing the border has stayed the same, 16 percent compared to 17 percent in 2021.
The share of stateless people, known as grey passport holders, crossing fell from 9 percent (5,716 people) to 4 percent (8,617 people).
In total, arrivals of 101 nationalities were registered when crossing the border. After Russians and Ukrainians, the next highest share was of Belarusians and Latvians, both at 3 percent. All others made up less than 1 percent of the total share.
Last year, the Latvian share was 6 percent, Belarusians 5 percent and Poles made up 2 percent of the total.
Almost half of people arriving in Estonia from Russia have residence permits from EU countries.
Editor: Helen Wright