We, 31.05.2023
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Sister and brother battle bother on border

Oliver Kund
, reporter
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Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

A daily task for Estonia's border guards is phone calls to parents from airport to check if it's okay for their kids to leave the country - the mom and dad have forgotten to «attach» a letter of permission. But even that may not suffice, as a paper acceptable in Estonia may spell suspicion in child abduction to an adult escort elsewhere. 

The latest such incident was the lot of an Estonian lady named Karin this Sunday night who sent her daughter Daisy (28) and son Markus aged 14 off towards Great Britain from native Tallinn Airport.

«I waved them off, serenely. An hour and half later, I got this call. Some guy was asking if I was the mother of Daisy and Markus, and whether I knew the kids intended to leave the country,» said Karin. «I was shocked, of course, as the plane was just about to leave. I said sure I knew it – I took them to the airport myself.»

Soon, Karin recalled she forgot to give the kids the letter of her permission. To make matters worse, Daisy – recently married in the UK – has another last name and is a British citizen.  

The Estonian border guard who could have suspected human trafficking called the mom and, after 15 minutes of inquiry, let them board the plane. It was round two in Gatwick Airport where the officials initially refused to let them in the country. Having decided to test Daisy’s knowledge of her brother’s date and place of birth, mercy was extended as the answers proved correct.

Karin finds no fault with either border official – rather the opposite. Even so, the event raises a string of questions. Like: what should a parental permit be like to be accepted in all countries? Why, when allowing Markus aged 14 out with mother’s permission only while father has equal rights?

Such phone calls to check happen daily, said a senior border official Viljar Kärk. It peaks in summer. This is to adhere to the Schengen rules intended to avoid child abduction.

«We can always verify Estonian citizens in databases. With people arriving from outside of Schengen, it gets very difficult,» admitted Mr Kärk.

As Postimees discovered, the entire Schengen visa space lacks a parental permit nor and every nation follows its own rules. In EU, the UK is the strictest probably, and elsewhere in the West it is Canada.

As covered by Postimees in 2012, an Estonian named Viktoria (37) almost lost her daughter of five when going from USA to Canada to see the Niagara Falls. Due to the differing family names, she was unable to prove they were relatives. Pursuant to Canadian law, in addition to copy of the kid’s birth certificate, Viktoria ought to have carried the father’s written permission with a copy of his passport.

As admitted by Tarmo Punnik of foreign ministry, they have no overview of requirements by nations. Best ask the specific embassy – and be armed with a population register excerpt in English. «In that case, it’s 99 percent problem free all over the world,» said Mr Punnik. Though costly and time-consuming, better have the paper notarised – as is often the practice with kids travelling outside of the EU. Most often, that would be to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Within the EU, the top popular destinations are the UK, Ireland and Finland with large Estonian communities.

As explained by justice ministry’s expert Haldi Koit, child abduction hazard is indeed greatest where Estonians most abound. Statistics say Estonia is rather a country where children are abducted from, not brought in.

«In 2013 and 2014, Estonia received four and two requests respectively to extradite a child. Meanwhile, we filed 11 and 10 applications to foreign nations,» said Mr Koit. He recognises the trouble taken by border guards to check the kids’ rights to travel, but rarely does it serve to prevent child abduction. Namely, children are mostly abducted by one of the parents who have the right to travel with them and cannot be hindered from boarding a plane.  

Thus far, there have only been a couple of occasions of border control obstructing child abduction in Estonia. Even then, it was only because the parent arriving at airport with the child was under court orders forbidding to take the kid abroad.

A traveller with child needs to carry

In UK:

copy of child’s birth certificate,

copy of marriage or divorce certificate, if parent’s last name dodders from child’s,

freely written permission by parent(s) if the accompanying adult is not a parent.

In Finland:

notarised permit by parent.

In Sweden:

one parent’s written permit if the child travels with somebody else.

In Russia:

when travelling with a parent, the written permit of the other parent,

written permission by both parents if a child is travelling without parents.


the other parent’s written permission when travelling with one parent (advisable notarised),

when travelling without parents, permission by both parents (advisably notarised).

In Italy:

written permission by both or the other parent, advisably with copies of passport or ID-card,

child’s birth certificate if parent’s family name differs from child’s.

In Canada:

When travelling without parents: copy of birth certificate, signed permission by both parents, and contact data of the adult responsible for the child in Canada,

When travelling with one parent, copy of child’s birth certificate and the other parent’s written consent with a copy of his/her passport,

when travelling with third persons, written permission by both parents with copies of their passports and contact information.

Sources: embassies, chamber of notaries

Band’s minor fans left behind in Austria

These past years, foreign ministry’s worst pain in the neck has been the band DefRage from Pärnu, with its accompanying-touring minors left behind 11 times in Central Europe without documents, since 2013.

«The rest of the bunch will take off with the minor’s documents and for some reason leaves the minor behind,» said the ministry’s consular aid chief Tarmo Punnik. The cases are mainly related to Austria, with a couple of instances in Germany.

Mr Punnik said the minors attracted attention of social workers once their money ran out. «We have helped identify them and thereafter, teaming up with parents, have organised the trip home as soon as possible,» said Mr Punnik.

The last incident with the band is from end of last year. After the group changed its name, such problems ceased.

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