Opinion digest: Refugee support person policy in Estonia dragging

War refugees in Haapsalu. Photo is illustrative.
War refugees in Haapsalu. Photo is illustrative. Source: (ERR)

Speaking on Raadio 2's "State of the Nation" broadcast on Sunday, hosts Ahto Lobjakas and Andrus Karnau claimed that Estonia's current refugee support person policy isn’t up to the task.

Lobjakas found that, according to the central pillar of Estonia's current support person policy, refugees arriving in Estonia should be independent within six months of their arrival.

"A family who has arrived in Estonia from Mosul via Greece — fast forward six months and we imagine that they have integrated into Estonian society?" he asked. "Is this a serious starting point?

"Language skills, customs — forget about manners, accessing the labor market, etc." he continued. "If this is seriously the central principle of our current support person policy, then there is something very wrong with this support person policy. This produces unintegrated refugees who are simply let loose on Estonia after six months and if they don't die, then they'll get by as best they can. This can in no way be the goal of our refugee policy."

Karnau said that it seemed to him as though the goal of the current state support person policy was to create a situation in which refugees felt as though they were not welcome in Estonia and hope that they would leave the country as soon as possible as a result of hostile attitudes.

Lobjakas highlighted one example of a job well done on the support person level in Haapsalu, which has been covered in the media and borne otherwise visible results. "Those refugees themselves are satisfied and I can't think of better criteria than to ask a refugee themselves if they are satisfied with their support person," he said.

Karnau noted that when the Ministry of Social Affairs sought an operating organization for refugee support person services last year, two organizations applied and half of the procurement tender was won by the nonprofit Johannes Mihkelson Centre. "This is a subsidiary of the Social Democratic Party (SDE), i.e. a business that is entirely under the control of the Social Democrats," he pointed out.

Lobjakas in turn recognized that there isn't a political party in Estonia that wouldn't direct its procurements to party mates given the opportunity, citing examples of such behavior by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and the Reform Party.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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