The number of asylum seekers in Estonia has been quite low compared to other EU countries. That might be the reason why studies show that the general public is not aware of this issue and unfortunately this topic has not been a priority on the governmental level either. Still – the number of refugees has increased visibly during the last 3 years: when in 2009 the number of asylum seekers was 40, then in 2011 it was 67. Therefore the organisations dealing with asylum seekers and refugees in Estonia face new challenges, questions and situations.

Here you can find the main information of the projects carried out in Estonian Human Rights Centre as well as information about asylum seekers and refugees in general.

Who is who?

It is important to know the necessary terminology used when dealing with asylum seekers and refugees.

  • Asylum seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated. National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seekers actually qualify for international protection. Those judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries. (UNHCR)
  • Refugee is a person who is outside their country of origin or habitual residence because they have suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they are a member of a persecuted ‘social group’. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state – indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death – or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights. (UNHCR)
  • Subsidiary protection applies in cases in which law on asylum does not. Deporting this person back to their home country could put them in danger. For example torturing, execution, inhumane or degrading methods of treatment or punishment, or being put into a life threatening situation.
  • Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transfering, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. (UNODC)
  • Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families.
  • Illegal immigration is the migration into a country/state in violation of the immigration laws and sovereignty of that country/state. Illegal immigration raises many political, economic and social issues and has become a source of major controversy in developed countries and the more successful developing countries.