Similar to other European countries, the number of asylum seekers is increasing in Estonia, but their numbers are still considerably smaller than even in Latvia and Lithuania. 111 people applied for asylum in Estonia in 2016. Despite the small numbers, a second reception centre for asylum seekers, Vägeva Kodu, had to opened in early 2016. Previously, asylum seekers were only accommodated in the Väo Accommodation Centre.
172 people (88 refugees and 84 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection) have been granted international protection in Estonia between 1997 and 2015. This figure increased by another 170 people (44 refugees, 21 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, 89 relocated or resettled persons, and 16 people who joined a family member who had been granted international protection in Estonia) in 2016.
Estonia has promised to relocate or resettle 580 war refugees in 2016 and 2017 on the basis of the European Commission’s migration plan and 107 refugees had arrived in Estonia by the middle of February 2017.
Estonia participates in the resolution of the crisis voluntarily and proportionally to its size in the European Union. Estonia also participates in the preparation of a long-term migration plan with the European Union, which also covers the resolution of crises in the source countries of migration.
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.