• Egert Rünne

The Estonian Human Rights Centre (EHRC) is continuing to work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2019. The aim of the project is to improve the accessibility of legal aid for asylum-seekers and persons under international protection and to monitor reception conditions in Estonia. Together we hope to improve:

  1. the accessibility of legal aid and solutions for asylum-seekers and persons under international protection in the Republic of Estonia;
  2. reception conditions in both reception and detention centres.

Throughout the project, from 1 January-31 December 2019, EHRC legal experts will be offering legal counsel and aid to asylum-seekers in the first stage of applying for asylum, which is a process overseen by the Police and Border Guard Board. Counselling involves free legal aid concerning the asylum-seekers’ application process as overseen by the Police and Border Guard Board, which includes representing asylum-seekers at interviews and formulating responses to decisions made by the Police and Border Guard Board.

Legal experts identify strategic court cases in the process of counselling which could help to improve the quality of the asylum procedure in Estonia.

In addition to the above, legal experts will make monitoring visits to the Vao and Vägeva accommodation centres and detention centres twice during the year. The aim of these visits is to gather and evaluate information concerning the accessibility of free national legal aid in representing asylum-seekers in their asylum and detention cases.

If necessary and in cooperation with the UNHCR, the EHRC lawyers will deal with any identified problems using focused legal measures or direct intervention with the involvement of relevant national institutions, such as the Office of the Ombudsman and courts or international and regional human rights monitoring organisations. This action plan is based on an analysis of first-stage asylum decisions, in the course of which attention is also turned to cases of persons redirected to Estonia for international protection based on decisions of the Council or Europe or activities of the relevant countries’ programmes.