Estonia simplifies process of taking in Ukrainian refugees

The Estonian government approved an order that will provide temporary protection to Ukrainian people fleeing to Estonia due to Russia’s military aggression; starting from 9 March, applying for a residence permit will supposedly become a one-day process for refugees.

“Most of the refugees we are taking in are women and children, so it is important that the adults find work and the youngsters a place in school or kindergarten as soon as possible. That will help them settle into their lives in Estonia more easily and more quickly,” the government said in a statement.

People from Ukraine who lived in the country prior to the outbreak of war on 24 February and who have fled to Estonia are being placed under temporary protection. This includes Ukrainian citizens, stateless people with permanent residence permits for Ukraine and third-country citizens who are unable to return to their own countries due to the life-threatening circumstances. The protection extends to the families of the refugees and can initially be obtained for a period of one year, then extended.

The services offered to those under temporary protection are accommodation and catering, in cooperation with the Estonian Social Insurance Board, local governments and a variety of organisations. The recipients are also covered by health insurance, giving them access to health care services and medicines, plus guaranteed check-ups.

A refugee centre for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Photo by Merle Praakli.

Right to work in Estonia

They have the right to work in Estonia, and access to basic education is ensured for their children. Refugees can also apply for subsistence benefits from the local government in the area in which they are based. Other financial support is also available to them, such as family benefits.

All those in need have the right to obtain the emergency social care services offered by local governments, while the right to access social services organised by the state and local governments is on a needs’ basis. Refugees can also take part in Estonian language-learning and adaptation programmes free of charge.

Since 27 February, more than 7,000 Ukrainian people have arrived in Estonia with plans to remain in the country, at least for the time being. So far, the majority have come to stay with their friends or relatives.

Read also: Live updates: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – reactions in Estonia.

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