Estonia ready to consider readmitting residents currently in Syria

Interior Minister Katri Raik (SDE). Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Estonia is prepared to consider readmitting people holding an Estonian residence permit who are currently in the conflict region in Syria and Iraq, Minister of the Interior Katri Rail (SDE) said. However, none of the about ten people affected have expressed the wish to return to Estonia, she added.

The minister told the Baltic News Service that according to the yearbook of the Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo), the people who are currently staying or have stayed in the conflict regions of Syria and Iraq number around ten.

"Their relation to Estonia is in most cases rather indirect," Ms Raik said, adding that roughly half of them are minors, and that the women listed in the yearbook in some cases left Estonia decades ago, married abroad, and entered what is now Syrian and Iraqi conflict region with their husbands.

"Estonia has an obligation to readmit citizens who have not been granted citizenship by another state. Where non-citizens are concerned that are holding or have held a residence permit, we only have the obligation to readmit them if a readmission agreement has been signed with the specific state in question," Ms Raik added.

"The decision depends on the circumstances of each individual case—what their relations with Estonia are, if another state has granted them citizenship or an authorisation to stay in the country, or if a request for extradition has been issued with regard to them by a partner," Ms Raik was quoted as saying in the BNS update.

"If a corresponding request is submitted to us, we will naturally analyse all relevant circumstances," the minister said, adding that at this point the Estonian authorities have received no such request.

Raik said that readmitting foreign fighters and their family members to Estonian society, each case must be considered individually.

"With each person, including minors, risks need to be assessed—why the person stayed in the region, what they did there specifically, and so on. It has to be taken into consideration that radicalisation is a long-term risk that requires costly long-term action and supervision. The probability of bringing minors back into society is likely to be higher [than in the case of adults], but again, it depends on the specific circumstances," the minister said.

Should a so-called foreign fighter return to Estonia, authorities might also initiate criminal proceedings against them as well. Every individual case is likely to involve several state authorities, Ms Raik said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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