A refugee family admitted to Estonia under the EU's migrant redistribution plan has, as of Tuesday, exceeded the period of time they are allowed to be away from Estonia, while another refugee family will surpass this deadline on Wednesday.
Triin Raag, head of international protection policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs' Social Policy Department, told BNS that a family of five who arrived in Estonia in August 2016 was the one to exhaust the limit on Tuesday. The family was accommodated in Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city. A family of five who arrived in Estonia in September 2016 and took up residence in Rakvere are the ones set to exhaust the limit on Wednesday.
Four families of refugees relocated to Estonia under the EU plan, referred to as quota refugees, have previously surpassed the time period allowed to be absent from Estonia and still receive welfare paid to them by the Estonian government.
The first of the families to exhaust the 90-day limit was a family of three from Syria that arrived in Estonia from Greece in November of last year and was provided accommodation in Tartu. The second family to surpass the limit was a family of six from Syria, who arrived in Estonia in August 2016 and took up residence in Viljandi.
Another two Syrian quota refugee families recently surpassed the 90-day limit as well; both arrived in the country from Greece in January 17, with a family of seven taken to live in Tartu and a family of five taking up residence in Põlva.
Thus far, five quota refugee families or altogether 26 people have exhausted the 90-day limit. In the event that the family given accommodation in Rakvere does not return by Wednesday, the number of refugee families to leave Estonia will increase to six, accounting for 31 people in all.
In addition, there are nine more such families made up of a total of 40 people that are currently not in Estonia but whose absence has not surpassed 90 days.
People granted international protection in Estonia are entitled to travel within the EU for no more than 90 days within any 180-day period. Once this limit is exhausted, the payment of family benefits is halted.
Estonia has accepted 150 refugees under the EU migrant distribution plan so far.
Among them is an Iraqi family of five who returned to their country of origin voluntarily under the VARRE program of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The family, which consisted of two parents and their three children, were the first family to be relocated to Estonia under the EU plan in March 2016.
Estonia has pledged to accept 550 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece over a period of two years under the EU migrant relocation and resettlement plan.
Editor: Aili Vahtla