Almost no interest among Ukrainian refugees to move from Estonia to Finland

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

Late last year, Finland agreed to accept up to 100 Ukrainian refugees a week from Estonia. While almost no one has seized the opportunity, Estonia has received Ukrainian refugees who have spent time in other European countries.

Finland agreed to take 100 refugees a week from Estonia, while the last two months have only seen three families and a cat make the move north. Three adults and six children over the age of ten.

The Estonian Social Insurance Board (SKA) said that the reason could be the fact that Finland places refugees in special accommodation centers.

"The person will be tied to that accommodation center for a period of 12 months. To compare, Estonia has prioritized making sure people become independent as soon as possible. This includes qualifying for various benefits once the person has their residence permit to facilitate the process of finding a permanent place to live instead of staying in national refugee centers or other state-provided locations," explained Liis Paloots, head of the SKA's migration services branch.

Based on the agreement between the countries, the opportunity to move to Finland is offered to refugees who have just arrived in Estonia and have not applied for international protection yet. However, interest to move on is almost nonexistent.

"Rather, people tell us that they came to Estonia because they have loved ones, friends or acquaintances here. Recently, we have also been told people have a job waiting for them," Paloots said.

The agreement with Finland followed fears of a second wave of Ukraine refugees that never came. The agreement is without a fixed term.

Veiko Kommusaar, Ministry of Internal Affairs' deputy secretary general for internal security, said that while there is no critical refugee pressure on society right now, escalation cannot be ruled out in which case an agreement to move people between two countries will be even more important.

The number of people applying for international protection in Estonia has stabilized at around 200 weekly applications in recent months to suggest that every other person who crosses the Estonian border plans to stay here for longer.

However, they also include people who have spent an extended amount of time elsewhere in Europe, for example, in Spain, Norway or Poland.

"People come from other countries because we have better school organization, the language environment is more familiar. Estonia has also made considerable efforts to make their lives easier," said Kristiina Raidla-Puhm, head of the Police and Border Guard Board's migration service.

Estonia has granted international protection to around 40,000 Ukrainian refugees. Four thousand people have given it up, usually before returning to their country of origin.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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