The Social Insurance Board (SKA) has extended its contract with Tallink to house Ukrainian war refugees aboard the cruise ferry MS Isabelle until October 7.
The number of Ukrainian refugees entering Estonia has decreased, and over half of those staying in temporary accommodation have found permanent housing. However, finding suitable homes for refugees has taken longer than expected, SKA said.
"In the current circumstances, extending the contract with Tallink is the best way forward," said Kersti Kask, acting head of crisis support at the Social Insurance Board, and added that living on the ship is still only a temporary solution, and that the goal is for the person to quickly find a job and an apartment to rent.
The current rental market, however, does not help with the relocation of Ukrainian war refugees from state-provided temporary housing.
"As autumn approaches, the rental market is highly competitive among local residents, employers and students, and prices have soared. All of the factors together make it difficult for refugees to find suitable housing, despite the number of available subsidies. In addition, many owners have an unjustified mistrust of refugee tenants," Kask explained.
"It is understandable that we grow tired of war and the horrific news associated with it, but we should not forget that Ukrainians are also fighting for our freedom, and it is our responsibility to help them in the background," Kask said.
MS Isabelle, cruise ferry owned and operated by the Estonia-based Tallink, was put into service to accommodate Ukrainian war refugees last April. It now accommodates over 1,906 refugees, including 591 children.
By July 18, the state had spent €21 million on temporary accommodation for war refugees, housing over 16,000 people.
To facilitate their move to permanent housing, war refugees can apply for a housing rental subsidy from their local governments. 65 municipalities have already signed a management agreement with SKA, and 624 compensation claims have been received.
Editor: Kristina Kersa