Police admits culpability in Mainor student deportation case

Estonian Visa in a Ukrainian passport.
Estonian Visa in a Ukrainian passport. Source: Toomas Huik/Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has said that it made a mistake in expelling a foreign student last month, adding that the student's Estonian residence permit should be restored, BNS reports.

The student, Reeta Bhandari, a Nepali national, was deported from the country in March after trying to visit relatives in Helsinki, something which the higher education institution she attended, the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS), said she needed to inform them of in advance.

Ms Bhandari said that she was unaware of the EUAS requirement, and had made the same trip several times without issues.

After being detained overnight by PPA personnel at Tallinn harbour, Ms Bhandari, who has a husband and child, was taken to her residence to retrieve belongings, before being put on a plane for Nepal, as covered at the time by daily Postimees.

For its part, the PPA said that it had not been aware of her previous visits outside Estonia and that authorities had determined that she had enrolled at the EUAS, commonly referred to as the Mainor Business School, and obtained Estonian residence, in order to gain access to the rest of the Schengen Zone.

Ms Bhandari was also hit with a two-year Schengen entry ban.

However, Ms Bhandari took legal action against the PPA on the grounds of wrongful treatment, it is reported; the PPA has preempted a court case by admitting to its mistake before the case reached the courts.

"We found that the PPA violated norms of the administrative procedure act when it revoked the residence permit and ordered the expulsion, as the person in question was not given sufficient freedom to present counterarguments,'' the PPA's own spokesperson Tuuli Harson told Postimees.

''The PPA failed to ascertain all important circumstances," she added, noting that the decision needs to be overturned and the student's residence permit restored.

Compensation may be forthcoming

"This means the individual will be issued a replacement residence permit card, paid for by the PPA, which will be sent to an embassy of her choice and will allow her to return to Estonia. The person can apply for compensation based on the state liability act , by recoursing to the PPA," Ms Harson continued.

ERR News obtained information shortly after Ms Bhandari's deportation which indicated she had a valid passport and residence permit; as noted the requirement of informing the EUAS of travel plans outside Estonia, peculiar to it and one other private university in Tallinn, Euroakadeemia, had not been met, and was the PPA's original grounds for her explusion.

Legal counsel for Ms Bhandari, Aldo Vassar of Lindeberg law firm, said the PPA's latest response showed it had no legal basis to revoke her residence permit and deport her in the first place.

"This makes it look as though the PPA simply decided to expel the person without consideration as to legal basis," Mr Vassar said, according to BNS, adding that such administrative practice is unacceptable.

"I would describe it as extremely regrettable behavior on the part of the PPA," he continued.

Mainor will have Ms Bhandari back

Legal basis for deportation may have come in the case of failing to attend courses and fulfil studies, or breaking an Estonian law, but this had not happened, and the purported agreement between student and school is a private one without legal basis either, Mr Vassar noted.

Ms Bhandari's next step is to potentially seek compensation for financial and moral distress as a result of the PPA's action, if this is not forthcoming.

"If the PPA refuses to compensate her extra-judicially, we will take a claim for compensation to court next," Mr Vassar said.

EUAS director Kristjan Oad said that Reeta Bhandari can continue her studies if she returns, since her academic progress has been recorded and the school had previously accepted her, and that the school may be able to provide assistance.

"In any case, what we need is official confirmation there are no legal restrictions to Reeta coming to study in Estonia, from the state, or the PPA, and a declaration of intention to continue her studies from her. We can take it from there," Mr Oad continued.

In its original piece on the case from 15 March, Postimees noted another similar case from 2017, where a Nigerian national was deported, and had an 18-month Schengen Zone ban imposed, for similar activities. The student had arrived in Tallinn to study at Euroakadeemia ahead of the beginning of his course, and opted to use the free time to visit Italy. Whilst able to purchase a plane ticket, he was held at Tallinn Airport, according to the piece, before being returned to his home country.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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