Integration of Refugees into the Estonian Society: Problems and Solutions
Estonia has received refugees and implemented asylum policy only since 1997, when the first Refugees Act entered into force.
In spring 2011 the Institute of Baltic Studies conducted a research commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior in order to analyse the current situa-tion of the refugees living in Estonia. It was the first study where the refugees were taken into the focus of integration. In the framework of the study, 21 personal interviews with refugees and one focus group interview with the support persons of refugees were conducted. The study report is available at www.ibs.ee. The article and the study on which it was based show that the integration of persons who have been granted international protection into the Estonian society has so far not been successful, because the procedure provided in the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens for receiving persons who have been granted international protection does not work, and the assistance for settling down and integration into the Estonian society offered to the persons who have been granted international protec-tion is not systematic and is based on single cases. Also there is no systematic forwarding of information to those who have been granted international protection, which results in their unawareness of their rights and obligations and the services offered to them, as well as of other assistance. The awareness of the Estonian officials (public servants and officials of local governments) of the persons who have been granted international protection is ex-tremely low and their attitude is often rather repelling. The refugees’ access to language courses is insufficient, therefore only one of the tens of refugees who took part in the study has had the opportunity to attend free language courses; there are also shortcomings in the integration of the persons who have been granted international protection into the labour market. After having been granted protection, the refugees have difficulties in finding regis-tered place of residence, which in its turn is an obstacle for their participation in the em-ployment training offered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund or the Estonian Language Courses organised by the Integration Foundation.