Children without residency permits have right to school places

School children waiting at a bus stop. Source: Merit Maarits/ERR

Children of third-country nationals living in Estonia have a right to a school place, the Ministry of the Interior ruled, regardless of whether or not they have a residency permit and are registered as living in the area.

ERR reported on Friday that Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Interior, Lauri Lugna, wrote to head of the Tallinn's Education Department, Andres Pajula, after Pujula said Tallinn municipality is not obliged to provide school places for children from third countries without residency permits. This means they are not registered as living in Tallinn.

Pajula said last month there are a large number of third-country minors who wanted a kindergarten or school place who had arrived in Tallinn in recent months, leaving the city unable to find places for them.

He said the Law on Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools states rural municipalities or cities must only provide places if a child is registered as living in the area, so the city was not required to provide them with a school or kindergarten place. Adding the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) also agreed with this position.

But Lugna disagreed and wrote to Pajula on Thursday saying the third-country national's legal basis for staying and working in Estonia is not only a residence permit but also a temporary stay visa which can be issued for up to two years.

He added that, as far as the Ministry of the Interior was aware, the Ministry of Education and Research has also said Schools Act already allows the admission of children whose place of residence is not registered in the population register.

He said the lack of a place of residence in the population register has proved to be a problem for children with temporary visas, which has led the Ministry of the Interior to expand laws that would allow them to register their place of residence in the Population Register. However, these changes are not expected to enter into force until 2022.

Lugna also said the issue goes beyond education, which means an analyze of the access and use of public services in Estonia by foreign nationals needs to be carried out. A round table meeting will take place later this month about the problems in education.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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