Estonia’s migration statistics were most affected last year by the war in Ukraine, which forced millions of people to leave their homes, as well as sanctions against Russia and Belarus, writes ERR News.
In 2022, the number of asylum-granting cases increased almost fivefold. Usually in Estonia, about 50 people receive asylum every year (out of about 100 applications per year). Last year, when Russia invaded Ukraine, asylum was granted to 2107 persons.
Applying for asylum is one of the fundamental rights, and Estonia is committed to fulfilling its international obligations by granting asylum to people whose stay in their country of origin is no longer safe. Legally, an asylum recipient is a citizen of another country who is recognized as a refugee, a recipient of additional protection or temporary asylum, and who is granted a residence permit in Estonia.
Until the beginning of 2022, the number of asylum seekers in Estonia was relatively small. Since 1997, a total of 4,264 foreigners have applied for asylum in Estonia, and it has been granted to 2,709 persons.
The rapid rise began last February when Moscow launched a full-scale war in Ukraine.
In 2022, 41,871 war refugees applied for temporary asylum in Estonia, of which 14,396 were children. Among these Ukrainians were also those who left Ukraine before February 2022 and could not return. Eda Silberg, undersecretary of the Cultural Diversity Department of the Estonian Culture Ministry, said that most of the recipients of international protection were Ukrainian citizens who could not apply for temporary protection because they left Ukraine before the war began. Temporary protection is granted out of sequence when a large number of people are at risk, and its maximum duration is three years.
Over time, some of the recipients of international protection have either returned to their country of origin or gone to another member state of the European Union. The motivation of others to stay in Estonia has changed. For example, 11 recipients of international protection have acquired Estonian citizenship.