Over 115,000 Ukrainian refugees entered Estonia since February

Ukrainian refugees on board ferry Mediterranee in Marseille, France.
Ukrainian refugees on board ferry Mediterranee in Marseille, France. Source: SCANPIX / AFP

Over 115,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Estonia since February and half were in transit, official data shows. Approximately 62,000 initially signaled they plan to stay in the country, but fewer have actually registered for temporary protection so far.

Figures published daily by the Social Insurance Board (SKA) from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) show 115,367 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Estonia as of November 17 since the start of Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine. Around 27,600 have been minors (23.9 percent).

Estonia was used as a transit country by 57,711 people (45.7 percent) who have since moved on, while 62,656 Ukrainians initially suggested they planned to stay.

SKA reception centers and information points have so far registered 35,480 refugees (70.5 percent women and 29.5 percent men).

The data shows the majority of children were in the 0-5, 6-11 and 12-17 age categories. Most adults fell into the 30-35 and 36-41 age groups, followed by 18-23 and 42-47. There were fewer old age people.

So far, 27,809 Ukrainians have registered a place of residence, SKA statistics show. In 22 municipalities they account for more than 1.5 percent of the population.

The share of refugees is highest in Jõhvi (4.09 percent), Viru-Nigula Municipality (3.85 percent), Anija Municipality (3.51), Maardu (3.34) and Lääne-Harju Municipality (2.96).

Registered residence data suggests 2.36 percent of Tallinners are now Ukrainian war refugees, while it is 2.36 percent for Tartu. Island municipalities of Ruhnu, Vormsi and Muhu do not have a single registered refugee.

Kommusaar: Not everyone registers

Ministry of the Interior Undersecretary Veiko Kommusaar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Veiko Kommusaar, the Ministry of Internal Affairs' undersecretary for internal security, said the ministry keeps sending registration reminders to refugees.

"Residence data is necessary so we could better plan public services, such as school and kindergarten places," he said.

Earlier this week, Minister of Internal Affairs Lauri Läänemets' (SDE) said there are around 40,000 refugees in Estonia. Asked about the difference in statistics, Kommusaar said not everyone who has arrived has registered or applied for temporary protection.

"The difference is down to the fact that the people of Ukraine have several legal ways of staying in Estonia. People who have applied for and been granted temporary protection number fewer than 40,000. A total of 62,000 people [including those with temporary protection] have said they plan to stay in Estonia. This includes all those who have escaped the war but have not applied for temporary protection," the undersecretary explained.

Refugees from Ukraine aboard Tallink's MS Isabelle, which is docked in Tallinn's Old City Harbor. April 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Kommusaar said that applying for temporary protection is not an obligation, and some 2,500 people have already given it up.

"Those who do not need temporary protection have, in renouncing it, declared that they can cope without state assistance," he added.

Kommusaar said the ministry's forecast suggests Estonia could have up to 75,000 refugees with temporary protection by the end of next year.

Asked whether this estimate could be on the low side considering Estonia already has over 60,000 refugees, Kommusaar said: "Let us keep in mind that refugees also move out of Estonia and many have said in recent polls that they plan to return home."

Nearly a third of Ukrainian children do not go to school

September 1 2022 at the Kristiine High School and the Freedom School (Vabaduse Kool), both in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Statistics from the Ministry of Education suggest a third of Ukrainian refugee children in Estonia do not attend an Estonian school or do so without informing the ministry. It is known that some children still attend Ukrainian schools online.

Of the 9,032 refugees in the 7-17 age group, 5,216 (58 percent) are attending basic school, 821 (9 percent) meet educational requirements, 453 (5 percent) have attended basic school before moving abroad and 2,542 (28 percent) are not attending school.

Of those not attending school, 48 percent do not have a registered residence. In other words, Estonia has no information on the whereabouts of 1,232 school-age children – whether they are participating in Ukrainian distance learning in Estonia or whether they have moved on from Estonia or returned to Ukraine.

A total of 8,081 refugee children were registered in the Estonian education IT system as of November 14.

Three-quarters of refugees are studying in Estonian (6,246 or 77.3 percent), including language immersion programs, and 1,798 (22.25 percent) in Russian.

PPA carrying out border checks to improve data collection

Estonian border guard. Source: PPA

The PPA ramped up border control on the Latvian and Finnish borders this week to get a better overview of the movements of Ukrainian and Russian citizens.

"We want to get a better overview of how many refugees and Russian citizens remain in Estonia and how many move on to other countries," Egert Belitšev, director of the PPA for border guard, told ERR on Tuesday.

He said tall buses and vans leaving Estonia are being checked to compare information about Ukrainian and Russian citizens coming to Estonia and those leaving. They will also be comparing ship passengers' data to border statistics.

The PPA had previously told ERR News the most reliable data set which gives an overview of the refugee situation in Estonia is the number registered for temporary protection.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski, Helen Wright

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