Majority of state's refugee accommodation money paid to Tallink

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

Forty-one million euros has been spent on housing Ukrainian refugees in Estonia since the start of the full-scale invasion and more than half of this has been given to passenger ferry company Tallink. The Social Insurance Board (SKA) said all accommodation companies were found through public procurement.

The company signed a €17 million contract last April and a second, when a new wave of refugees was expected, for €7.5 million in December.

"This preparedness costs money and this was the only way to ensure that preparedness. If I put it in the timeline where we have accommodated people in Tallink, it still comes out cheaper — about €1.5, €2 million cheaper per month — than if we had provided this service in accommodation facilities," Vadim Ivanov, head of SKA's Crisis Management Department, told Tuesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Ivanov said all accommodation has been found via public procurement and Tallink won the competitions. The requirements stated 2,000 people must be provided with temporary accommodation and the venue be used by SKA as it wished.

When catering is added, Tallink has received just under €30 million.

Tallink's Isabelle cruise ship has been used to house war refugees from Ukraine since last summer. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tallink's communications manager Katri Link said: "On the one hand, there are certainly the revenues that come from such contracts, but we must not forget that such contracts also entail costs, including port dues, the cost of fuel, because a ship at berth consumes fuel, and of course personnel costs."

The Ministry of Social Affairs plans to check the contracts signed with accommodation facilities. But today the ministry's Secretary General Maarjo Mändmaa considers the Tallink contract to be fully justified.

"We sourced partners who would allow refugees to stay for longer than a month or two, and who would not have the worry of having previous reservations on top, as was the case with hotels and accommodation," said Mändmaa.

Many hotels made a profit hosting refugees. Pilary Viin, manager of Džingli Hotel in Männiku, said accommodating refugees coincided with a period of low occupancy.

Ukrainians staying on the Isabelle. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"The Social Insurance Board made an inquiry to us a little before the war started, we had sent them an offer, they had our contact details and when the need for accommodation arose they contacted us," said Viin.

The hotel hired out all of its 750 rooms from the end of Feburary 2022 until September and hosted 3,200 people. In total, the state paid almost €5 million to the hotel.

Since February 2022, the country has offered temporary accommodation to almost 24,000 refugees.


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Editor: Mari Peegel, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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