Accepting so-called quota refugees is not like planned economy and Estonia will continue to accept them the same way and at the same rate as before, Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt (SDE) said, commenting on the fact that just two refugee families have arrived in Estonia in the past four months.
"Estonia has no problems meeting the commitments we have undertaken [in the framework of the EU migration plan], and we will proceed depending on whether there are suitable candidates or not," Anvelt told BNS on Monday.
In the past four months, just two quota refugee families, consisting of a total of 11 people, have arrived in Estonia. One of the reasons behind this is the fact that Greek authorities have not sent any files of so-called quota refugees to Estonia since May.
This summer, Estonian officials also carried out a proceeding mission in Turkey, but the mission produced no results, as some refugees did not want to come to Estonia and the rest did not qualify for relocation, and the next such mission is to take place at the end of this fall, no additional refugees are to be sent to Estonia under the EU migrant distribution plan anytime soon.
"For us, the most important thing is to guarantee public order and safety," Anvelt said, adding that Estonia was one of the first countries in Europe to establish a rule that representatives of the accepting country will carry out their own interviews with the candidates and noting that many other countries have since followed suit. "At the same time, we have to keep in mind that Estonia is a democratic law-governed state and we will not bring anyone here against their will — the ones who want to come to Estonia will come."
Anvelt stressed that accepting quota refugees is not planned economy. "We will continue our work at the same speed," he said. "If files are sent to us, we will see whether the people are suitable for us to accept them and whether they are willing to come to Estonia. A lot depends on whether files are being sent to us and what they contain."
According to Anvelt, Estonia is among the European average when it comes to accepting refugees and has met 42.9 percent of the full target. "There have been no reproaches from Europe," he noted.
Estonia held talks with Italy for more than a year over sending a proceeding mission to the country. "Now we can start operating there," Anvelt said. "We will also continue resettlement from Turkey, where it is even harder to find people suitable for Estonia than in Greece."
"We don't know whether and when Greece will continue relocating refugees," Liana Roosmaa, deputy director of the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior, told BNS on Friday.
Most of the refugees in Greece either have been relocated, are waiting to be relocated or it has been decided that they will remain in Greece, and according to the ministry official, Greek authorities have not forwarded the files of any refugees to Estonia for conducting proceedings since May.
Estonia to begin interviewing refugees in Italy
This month, Estonia will conduct a proceeding mission in Italy, where six people will be interviewed. According to the official, this will mark the first time Estonia carries out such a mission in Italy.
Estonia has been in talks with Italy since the relocation and resettlement program was launched, but until now had not reached an agreement due to Italy not wanting to allow Estonia to carry out refugee interviews there, as it has done in Greece and Turkey.
A total of 161 refugees have been relocated or resettled in Estonia from Greece and Turkey since the EU program was launched, 84 of whom are either not currently in Estonia or have left the country permanently. Thus, 77 quota refugees currently reside in Estonia.
Estonia has pledged to accept 550 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece over a two-year period under the EU migrant relocation and resettlement plan.
Editor: Aili Vahtla