Estonia to accept 30 Afghan refugees

The Estonian government on 19 August decided the country is going to accept 30 Afghan refugees who have helped Estonians in the country.

The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas said on Facebook that among the refugees Estonia is going to accept are people who worked for Mondo, an Estonian development cooperation, humanitarian aid and education non-profit. These people include the educators of midwives, people supporting girls’ education and activists fighting for women’s rights.

“We’re concentrating on helping the people who have been associated with Estonian aid programmes in Afghanistan and therefore offered better opportunities for development for Afghan women and youngsters,” Kallas said.

“The concrete decision, whom we’re going to accept under the Foreigners’ International Protection Act, will be made by the Police and Border Guard Board who will check people’s backgrounds and conduct interviews,” the prime minister added.

The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas. Photo by Stenbock House.

Kallas admitted that the situation in Afghanistan is tense and therefore there might not be time to evacuate people after the US mission in the country ends on 31 August. “Thus, all countries must act fast,” she added.

The prime minister also pointed out that Afghanistan had a special place in the Estonian security and defence policy.

Estonian non-profit Mondo helping Afghans since 2008

“In the course of the 18-year mission, nine Estonian soldiers died and tens were injured. We’re remembering all the Estonian servicemembers who served in Afghanistan and those who lost their lives there. These fighters have stood for the Estonian security and advanced the rights and freedoms of millions of Afghans. We’ll never forget their efforts.”

Estonia participated in Afghanistan under the NATO mission, the International Security Assistance Force, from 2003 to 2014. They served along the British forces in the restless Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

Estonian soldiers chatting with local villagers in Afghanistan in 2011. Photo by the Estonian Defence Forces.

The Estonian non-profit Mondo that the prime minister mentioned, has been working in Afghanistan since 2008. According to the non-profit’s website, health experts were first deployed to help build a medical system for Helmand province area.

“Currently, we are collaborating with local partner organisations in northern and eastern Afghanistan to improve women’s reproductive health, access to childbirth assistance and to enable access to education for girls, including digital competencies and health education. Since 2012, we maintain the Fatima Zahra girls school in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province,” the Mondo website says.

Fatima Zahra girls school, maintained by NGO Mondo in Jalalabad.

Mondo’s activities in Afghanistan are supported by the Estonian foreign ministry and private donors.

Read also: Estonia must offer its former Afghan partners a safe haven – no ifs, ands or buts

Cover: Estonian soldiers mingling with the Afghan locals in 2013. The image is illustrative. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.

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