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More Ukrainian refugees leaving Estonia than arriving

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

Approximately 70 Ukrainian refugees arrive every day in Estonia but people tend to leave rather than stay, reversing the trend since February 2022. Those that do stay often have friends or relatives in the country.

The number of Ukrainians crossing Estonia's borders has been stable for several months, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) told Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK). The number of arrivals has dropped since the start of the year.

"The daily figure is less than 100, or around 70 to 80 refugees, of whom an estimated 50 percent remain in Estonia, with the rest moving on to other countries," said Gert Kaju, head of the PPA's crisis preparedness office.

Kirill Badikin, team leader of the Social Insurance Board's (SKA) Crisis Management Department, said the trend tends to show that Ukrainians are returning home.

"We have data that 4,500 Ukrainian citizens have left Estonia, a large number of whom have moved back to Ukraine. The rest have moved on to other countries," he said.

"As far as we know, and the refugees have told us, with summer coming, it will be possible to do some agricultural work in their own country," Badikin told AK.

However, Ukrainians interviewed by AK have not noticed that their compatriots are leaving.

Danila came to Estonia with her mother and sister. He is employed, and although he and his family currently live on the ferry Isabelle, he does not think it will be difficult to find an apartment. 

"It's quite easy to find a place to live here. We have to make a bit of an effort because we came here with our dogs. But that's it, no more problems," Danila said. The family plan to go back to Ukraine after the end of the war.

Due to the reduced number of arrivals, SKA will close its help and information points at the end of the month.

The information point in Tallinn will remain open until the end of May but will operate in the Isabelle ship, which is being used as temporary accommodation, rather than the bus station.

Badikin said many Ukrainians who move to Estonia now already have contacts in the country.

"Therefore, short-term accommodation may not be needed. Many refugees also have a valid employment contract, i.e. an agreement with the employer is already in place, people come to work here," he said.

Almost, 45,000 people have sought temporary protection in Estonia since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. Approximately 19,000 have applied to extend their stay.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright

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