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Estonia to simplify process of taking in Ukrainian refugees [EN/RU]

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Stenbock House, 8 March 2022 – The government today approved an order that will provide temporary protection to Ukrainian people fleeing to Estonia due to Russia’s military aggression. Starting from tomorrow, Wednesday 9 March, applying for a residence permit will become a one-day process for refugees.

“It is up to us to make it as easy as possible for those fleeing Putin’s war to settle in to their temporary new life here,” said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, adding that today’s decision by the government would help to reduce red tape for the already traumatised Ukrainians. “Most of the refugees we are taking in are women and children, so it is important that the adults find work and the youngsters a place in school or kindergarten as soon as possible. That will help them settle in to their lives in Estonia more easily and more quickly.”

People from Ukraine who lived in the country prior to the outbreak of war on 24 February and who have fled to Estonia are being placed under temporary protection. This includes Ukrainian citizens, stateless people with permanent residence permits for Ukraine and third-country citizens who are unable to return to their own countries due to the life-threatening circumstances. The protection extends to the families of the refugees and can initially be obtained for a period of one year, then extended.

The services offered to those under temporary protection are accommodation and catering offered by friends and relatives and in cooperation with the Social Insurance Board, local governments and a variety of organisations. The recipients are also covered by health insurance, giving them access to health care services and medicines, plus guaranteed check-ups. They have the right to work in Estonia, and access to basic education is ensured for their children. Refugees can also apply for subsistence benefits from the local government in the area in which they are based. Other financial support is also available to them, such as family benefits. All those in need have the right to obtain the emergency social care services offered by local governments, while the right to access social services organised by the state and local governments is on a needs basis. Refugees can also take part in Estonian language-learning and adaptation programmes free of charge.

Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani says the European Union has shown a united front and acted swiftly to help those fleeing the Kremlin-induced crisis in Ukraine. “As a result, we are implementing a temporary protection directive for the first time,” he explained. “With it we can offer the Ukrainians a sense of security and social guarantees, granting them access to education, the labour market and social protection.”

The EU’s interior ministers decided at a meeting on 3 March to launch a temporary protection directive within the European Union so as to provide Ukrainian refugees with residence permits in a streamlined process that does not overly burden national asylum systems.

The government today also approved the proposals of the Minister of the Interior to amend a number of laws so as to produce greater clarity in regard to the legal basis for Ukrainian refugees to reside and work in Estonia.

Since 27 February more than 7000 Ukrainian people have arrived in Estonia with plans to remain here, at least for the time being. So far, the majority have come here to stay with friends or relatives. Most of the refugees are women and children. To date, 2610 Ukrainian youngsters have arrived in Estonia.

In order to more smoothly organise the entry into Estonia of Ukrainian refugees and their first contact with the state, the government introduced temporary checks on the Estonian-Latvian border on 3 March. This will provide a better overview of those in need and enable them to be offered information and told where they can obtain initial services as soon as they reach the border.