Refugee from Tajikistan: I feel safe in Estonia

During 2017, EHRC offered legal aid to 80 asylum seekers (there were 96 first-time asylum applications in Estonia altogether). The 80 asylum seekers came from the following countries: 12 from Iran, 12 from Ukraine, 9 from Russia, 8 from Albania, 6 from Turkey, 5 from Egypt, 4 from Syria, 3 from Usbekistan, 3 from Sudan, 2 from Cuba, 2 from Camerun, and one from Congo, Yemen, Mexico, Armenia and Nigeria each. One person did not have a citizenship.

Also, 19 strategic litigation cases were taken up by the lawyers at EHCR in 2017. Many of the asylum seekers now have refugee status in Estonia and are settling in. One of them is a refugee from Tajikistan who was granted asylum earlier this year – Egert spoke to him to find out how he is doing in Estonia.

June 20 is World Refugee Day. How do you as a refugee yourself think about this day?

There are many events going on on this day and I think it’s good that the topic is discussed.

What does a regular day look like for you here in Estonia? Is it different from your life in Tajikistan?

I am a very active person, because this is how you get to become a member of the community. Daily I work at a restaurant in the city centre [in Tallinn – E.R.] and in my free time I participate in different cultural and organisational activities that are offered by the local organisations.

Tajikistan is very different when it comes to weather – I came to Estonia in December, in the middle of winter. But the biggest difference is that I feel safe in Estonia, in Tajikistan I never had that feeling.

Estonian Human Rights Centre carried out a project in Tajikistan 2 years ago, training local NGOs on equal treatment. What do you think has changed in Tajikistan concerning human rights?

The situation of human rights in Tajikistan hasn’t changed, especially when it comes to minorities. For example, it is no secret that the situation of LGBT people in Central Asia is very difficult and the organisations that fight for their rights are often put in a complex position. Law enforcement agencies have paid visits to the organisations and individuals fighting for minoryt rights in recent times, registrating them all. It is a very serious violation of human rights, citizens are not treated equally and their rights are not respected. People from different religious groups are also persecuted, many people from minority groups don’t have access to legal aid. The situation is changing very slowly, if at all.

How have you been accepted in Estonia?

Everybody has been very friendly with me, I have been well accepted. On the other hand, I still have a lot to learn about you language and culture. I have aldeady found friends with whom I have good relations and who help me settle in. I also went to work as soon as I could and have learned everything quite quickly there. My colleagues are wonderful and they also help me learn Estonian.

Do you miss anything from Tajikistan?

The thing I miss the most are self-grown fruits and vegetables, which cannot be grown or bought in Estonia.

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