The Ministries of the Interior of Estonia and Finland reached an agreement confirming that Finland will accept from Estonia up to 100 Ukrainian refugees a week who have expressed interest in going.
As Estonia is reaching its limit in receiving war refugees from Ukraine, beyond which it would struggle to guarantee to guarantee newly arriving refugees access to all the necessary support services and assistance at a sufficient level of quality, Estonia in cooperation with the Finnish government will offer some arriving refugees the option to move on to Finland, the Ministry of the Interior said in a press release Friday.
Once in Finland, the refugees will be able to apply for temporary protection and will be guaranteed relevant support services.
As Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine and the brunt of its warfare is directed at the latter's civilian population, Estonia has continued to receive a steady stream of refugees, Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) highlighted.
"Thus far, we have been able to offer all refugees sufficient support and services, but as new refugees continue arriving, we appealed for help from our northern neighbor well ahead of time," Läänemets said.
"Over the last few weeks, we reached an agreement on how moving refugees to Finland could take place," he continued, adding that Finland will soon be expecting to receive up to 100 Ukrainian refugees a week from its neighbor to the south.
"I would like to emphasize that moving on to Finland is just an option we're offering; it's not something we will pressure people into, and even less so an obligation," the minister stressed. "Those who prefer to remain in Estonia — because they have families or relatives here, for example — will naturally have that option. Having said that, for many war refugees, moving on to Finland will be a welcome prospect."
According to the Estonian minister, this support from Finland will first and foremost be a means of avoiding a scenario where an increased influx of refugees would stretch Estonia's assistance capabilities to their limits, leading to a decrease in the quality of support services — such as in healthcare or education — that would be equally detrimental to war refugees and local residents alike.
Ministry Undersecretary for Internal Security Veiko Kommusaar acknowledged that some weeks they may see no interest in the Finland option, while other weeks there may be more than 100 people interested in going.
"In that case, we will be flexible and offer people the option of going a week or two later, when there is less interest," Kommusaar explained, adding that transport from Estonia to Finland is currently planned for two days a week — on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
More than 42,000 applicants for temporary protection
Vadim Ivanov, director of the the Crisis Management Department of the Social Insurance Board (SKA), said that the agency remains ready to assist and support all refugees arriving in Estonia.
SKA has been offering shelter and comprehensive assistance to all refugees since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ivanov said, adding that they currently have around 2,000 refugees in short-term housing.
"However, it's become evident that many other state services are starting to reach their limits," he continued. "Our information desks are staffed with competent employees who can advise refugees already living in Estonia as well as those new arrivals who may be interested in moving to Finland. We can advise on the latter as soon as there is comprehensive info about what is being offered in Finland."
The target group for this measure is expected to consist primarily of Ukrainian citizens who have not yet received temporary protection or a valid residence permit in Estonia or any other country. In case someone already has a valid residence permit, they must first renounce it and then apply for one again in Finland.
Excluded from the target group, according to the Estonian ministry, are persons who do not have the right to temporary protection and other citizens of third countries, unless they are family members of a war refugee from Ukraine, unaccompanied minors as well as disabled people whose moving to Finland would be too complicated.
Of war refugees from Ukraine who have arrived in Estonia since the end of last February, nearly 66,000 have declared their wish to remain, and 42,000 have applied for temporary protection.
The number of arrivals has been falling recently; over the last month, fewer than 100 war refugees from Ukraine a day have entered the country.
Editor: Aili Vahtla