Internal Security Service: Risk of learning mobility abuse increasing

Estonia's Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo) sees risk potential in the increasing number of student visas issued.
Estonia's Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo) sees risk potential in the increasing number of student visas issued. Source: ERR

In its annual review, the Internal Security Service finds that there is an increasing threat that schemes are abused under which third-country students can settle in Estonia. They may include entering the Schengen Area on a student visa, then finding employment as unskilled labour, applying for a permanent right of residence and then bringing family members into the country as well.

"The threat of abusing learning mobility and the real problems that have arisen are major," the Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo) writes in its annual review. While most of the individuals entering the country on student visas do so for honest reasons, there is a large number of third-country nationals that use their status mainly to enter the Schengen Area.

These people tend to disappear "into the depths of the EU" before so much as beginning their studies, the ISS writes.

Efforts to abuse the system are coordinated, with social media playing an important role, where there are groups that discuss and explain step by step how entering Estonia this way is possible, and how to move on to other EU countries.

The Estonian economy depends on highly skilled specialist labour, such as scientists, IT and communications experts and investors, among others. The state has lowered the bar for people falling into these categories, while at the same time making entering the country difficult for all those third-country citizens who don't meet the set requirements.

"At the same time, a large number of workers and students are accepted from third countries for positions that are not included on this list. Many university graduates apply for permanent residence and begin unskilled work in Estonia, also inviting their family members to come here. There is reason to believe that numerous marriages between third-country nationals have been entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining a visa or residence permit," the ISS writes.

These people usually earn little and don't add value to the output of the Estonian economy. They are also unlikely to make an effort to integrate into society, the ISS adds.

Furthermore, considering the dominant understanding of human rights and other social values in Western societies, this particular immigrant group often "stands out for their completely different value judgements," the ISS writes. In the long term, this may negatively affect Estonian society by stoking up tensions, and may be a threat to public order and security.

One of the foremost concerns of the ISS is the appearance of communities isolated from the rest of society. "Self-segregation and associated social and economic vulnerability in turn set very favourable conditions for radicalisation and thereby support for terrorism," the ISS writes, which is why it is in the interest of the country that schools and universities understand the role they play in these developments and take the associated risks into account.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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