A new life: from Sudan to Estonia

Thursday morning meant good news for Emad, at Vao, Väike-Maarja asylum seekers centre in Lääne-Viru County – his answer was yes. Hailing from Sudan, the man is optimistic and eager to start a new life in Estonia.

Emad (27) has been in Estonia for the past nine months. Arriving from Russia, he was caught at the border after which he filed for asylum. Since then, he’s been an inhabitant of the Vao Centre with about 70 fellow asylum-seekers.

«From Sudan to Russia I came by airplane. But I did not like it in Russia and then I came to Estonia because Estonia is in Europe,» explained Emad, in English.

In the afternoon, Emad still wore the smile from the yes-reply received in the morning. «I like Estonia. Estonia is a good country and there are good people here and now I also got a positive reply [to asylum application],» he said joyfully. «I will seek a job now, so I can start a new life in Estonia.»

Every tenth «positive»

Living in the Northern part of Sudan, Emad worked as a lawyer and has a Bachelor’s in law. Asked what work he would like to do in Estonia, the man said it makes no big difference – the main thing is to find a job.

As reason for leaving homeland, Emad cited the dangerous situation. «I left Sudan for it is dangerous there. There is terrorism there and a bad government and very many problems. People are running away from there,» he explained.

«Many of my family perished, including my mother and father. Therefore I escaped. My sister and brother are in Sudan right now,» he said, expressing hopes they too might make it to Europe some day.

Ahmed, also from Sudan, said he fled homeland due to the constant terror attacks and the dictator being very cruel. The only foreign language Ahmed speaks is Russian, having studied it for two years at a university.

From the university, Ahmed graduated as a construction engineer and, like Emad, got to Estonia via Russia. At the moment, he is waiting for his asylum application to be processed.

On the average, it’s every 10th asylum seeker that is accepted into Estonia, so Emad’s joy is understandable. According to Jana Selesneva, head of the accommodation centre, it was quite a while since the last application got a yes. She explained that all applications are carefully pondered and the answer comes based on substantial reasons.

«At the moment, there are 72 asylum seekers. A couple of families who have received a yes are about to move out,» noted Ms Selesneva.

As for language study, this is voluntary at the refugee centre. «They have the option to study Estonian. Those who are motivated do well at it. But then there are those who say they will begin to study once they get a positive reply,» said Ms Selesneva. «Most of the Ukrainian children attend Tapa Gymnasium. For the kids, learning the Estonian language is easy, they get it quickly.»

From crisis areas

Overall, inhabitants are happy with the shelter at the centre – recently moved to Vao. «Those that were at the old centre [at Illuka, Ida-Viru County] say this is an excellent spot. From here, they can go to Tallinn and Tartu, and are able to visit the sports facilities at Väike-Maarja,» said Ms Selesneva.

For the most part, the shelter is inhabited by people from Ukraine and Sudan – the crisis areas. At the beginning of the year, the refugee centre only featured a couple of Ukrainians. By now, they are 20 or so.

Emad says he often fellowships with the Ukrainians and has, thanks to that, mastered some Ukrainian and Russian. «I like the people here. It is very nice to fellowship with Estonians and Ukrainians, and get acquainted with new people,» he added.

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