Think tank: Refugee burden unevenly shared among Estonian municipalities
Since Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine began last February, 32,000 people have registered their residence in Estonia, meaning war refugees make up around 2.2 percent of the Estonian population. According to a new report by independent Riigikogu think tank the Foresight Center, the distribution of Ukrainian refugees and the burden related to hosting them varies considerably among Estonian municipalities.
According to a report by the Foresight Center, the number of Ukrainian war refugees, who have registered their residence in Estonia, varies considerably among different Estonian municipalities.
The majority, or nearly two thirds of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia, are currently living in the country's larger municipalities of Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu. In eleven Estonian municipalities, Ukrainian refugees make up three percent or more of the population, while in 24 municipalities, less than 1 percent of the population are Ukrainian refugees.
In its analysis, the Foresight Centre took into account the size of municipalities and their capacity to provide public services. According to the report, this data can then be used as a basis for assessing which municipalities bear the greatest burden as a result of hosting refugees.
"Municipalities with a higher than average share of war refugees but lower revenue capacity and service levels face more difficulties in providing the necessary services to new residents and supporting their adaptation and integration into Estonian society," said Foresight Center expert Märt Masso.
The burden related to hosting Ukrainian war refugees is higher than average in the cities of Maardu (Harju County) and Rakvere (Lääne-Viru County), as well as in the rural municipalities of Jõhvi (Ida-Viru County) and Viru-Nigula (Lääne-Viru County). In Jõhvi Rural Municipality, the number of war refugees who have registered their residence amounts to 4.5 percent of the population. In Viru-Nigula Rural Municipality and in the cities of Maardu and Rakvere, Ukrainian refugees make up 3.9 percent of the population.
According to Masso, the integration and cohesion of society can be understood by looking at the legal status of members of the population. More specifically, he points to the percentage of people living in each region, who have Estonian citizenship. "The City of Maardu and Jõhvi Rural Municipality are municipalities with high proportions of registered Ukrainian war refugees. At the same, time they have lower than average percentages of Estonian citizens. Unfortunately, this also means a heavy burden when it comes to supporting the adaptation of war refugees and their integration into Estonian society," said Masso.
According to the report, the resilience of the different Estonian municipalities, which is understood as resulting from their revenue capacity and the level of public services they are able to provide, is also an important factor in the hosting and integrating of Ukrainian refugees.
Masso pointed out, that the problem of uneven burdens placed on municipalities as a result of hosting refugees becomes even more acute when resilience is also taken into account. For example, there is a relatively high proportion of war refugees in the cities of Võru (Võru County) (2.8 percent), Kohtla-Järve (Ida-Viru County) (2.4 percent) and Loksa (Harju County) (2.3 percent), as well as the rural municipalities of Valga (Valga County) (2.7 percent), Tapa (Lääne-Viru County) (2.2 percent) and Lüganuse (Ida-Viru County) (2.2 percent). However, in terms of revenue capacity, all of these municipalities are simply coping. With the exception of Võru, they also tend to be below average when it comes to the level of services.
According to the report, there are also some Estonian municipalities, which have a relatively good revenue base and quality of available services, but where the amount of Ukrainian refugees registered add up to less than one percent of the population. In the Harju County rural municipalities of Harku, Viimsi, Saku and Kambja in Tartu County for instance, the revenue capacity and level of available services is higher than average. However, only 110–170 refugees have registered their residence in each of these municipalities.
The full report is available (in Estonian) here.
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Editor: Michael Cole