Estonia-Finland Ukrainian refugee relocation scheme to start mid-February

Tallink's passenger ferry M/S Isabelle will act as temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.
Tallink's passenger ferry M/S Isabelle will act as temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia and Finland's Ukrainian refugee relocation plan has not yet come into force and the first participants will move north in the coming weeks.

Finland has agreed to accommodate 100 Ukrainian refugees a week who initially enter the EU seeking protection via Estonia.

While Finland has a population five times larger than Estonia fewer refugees have sought to seek shelter in the nordic country.

Estonia has accepted tens of thousands of new arrivals since February 2022 although it is not known exactly how many have stayed.

Liis Paloots, head of the Social Insurance Board's Migration Service, said the scheme will take a little longer to organize.

Ukrainian war refugees arriving in Tallinn in March 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"For us, the main objective is to make sure that this person, this Ukrainian refugee, understands what he or she is facing there and that this supported movement is targeted," said Paloots.

Estonia must first clarify what Finland is offering to the Ukrainians, while the Finns want to know what people arriving will need.

"For example, if we are talking about households with pets moving from here with our help, or maybe a person has a mobility disability so that they [the Finns] can take a better look at the conditions of their accommodation centers and assign people to those accommodation centers accordingly," said Paloots.

It is also necessary to make sure the Ukrainians receive temporary protection in Finland.

"As one of the criteria, Finland has pointed out that the person we help to go to Finland should not have a residence permit from another EU country," said Paloots. 

"Even before this agreement between the Estonian and Finnish ministries of the interior, Ukrainian war refugees were moving to Finland independently. Today they still have that possibility," she added.

But the decision of which country the Ukrainians want to stay in is ultimately up to them. Some people may not want to uproot themselves once more.

More than 40 refugees arrive in Estonia via the eastern border every day, data from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) show.

More than 66,000 Ukrainians have told the PPA they plan to stay in Estonia for the foreseeable future, but fewer have registered for temporary protection and it is not known exactly how many are still in the country.

The majority of refugees travel through occupied Ukrainian territory to reach Russia and then enter the EU by crossing Estonia's border.


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Editor: Helen Wright

Source: ERR-i raadiouudised

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