Former Guantánamo inmate integrating into Estonia

Anneli Ammas
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After ten years innocently jailed on the Cuban isle of Guantánamo, then released and sent to Estonia this January, the Yemeni Ahmed Abdul Qader is still in Estonia and trying actively to get settled says social ministry. 

«He’s active, attending courses of Estonian language,» says social ministry international protection policy head Triin Raag. «He has a support person, he has been granted international protection in Estonia and a temporary residence permit.»

Ms Raag says the Yemeni (32) wants no public attention. «He as all the rights that belong to those granted international protection in Estonia. He has been supported in acquiring accommodation, has been provided the option to participate in Estonian language courses, and he has access to all benefits and services on equal basis as all permanent residents in Estonia,» said Ms Raag.

Ms Raag desired not to specify whether Ahmed has found a job, to avoid public attention. «He has the option to have recourse to unemployment insurance fund,» generalised the official.

«Via services and trainings he has the opportunity to create new contacts surely enhancing adaptation, and if he so desired he may voluntarily return to his native country,» said Ms Raag. Ahmed has shown no such desire.

Endangered in homeland

As Ahmed arrived in Estonia in January, interior ministry domestic security vice chancellor Erkki Koort said his life could be in danger in Yemen due to the regime in power.

Meanwhile, others applying for asylum in Estonia include such as returned home before awarded international protection in Estonia.

Those under international protection are free to roam in EU and Schengen visa space. Should he, for instance, want to go to Finland, he may travel there as a tourist and stay for as long as allowed for tourists visa-free. A refugee with Estonian residence permit may go to work and dwell in another EU member state but then with work and residence permits applied for on location.

Ahmed has also participated in cultural orientation courses organised by an international migration organisation, the main integration support course in Estonia as it stands.  

New adaptation programme

Starting October, adaptation courses in preparation since 2012 were lunched at interior ministry initiative for new immigrants. The ministry’s citizenship and migration policy adviser Liana Roosmaa said the EU funded courses are firstly for new immigrants dwelling in Estonia legally for less than five years and having arrived to study, to work or by family migration.

From August 1st, police and border guard advises all awarded temporary residence permit to participate in the programme. The letters of recommendation number 2,875.

The programme consists of five days of training where they talk about Estonia and being an Estonian. Trainings on family, entrepreneurship, work, kids, youth, study and science are also offered. The days lasting 8 hours are meant to cover rights and opportunities, the way things are done in Estonia. They also offer 80 hours of Estonian language study.

Ms Roosmaa said the courses are not mandatory but when residence permits are being extended, the applicants are again reminded of the option. In October, the training in both English and Russian have been organised in Tartu and Tallinn, with one to begin in Narva. Ms Roosmaa said 190 new immigrants have already participated – roughly half from EU and the other half from third countries. In Tallinn, seven language groups are gathering.

The immigrants are able to pick their trainings. Ms Roosmaa said language and basic trainings have been the most popular, as have been the ones on business and work.

At the end of November, adaptation programmes will also be launched for those awarded international protection, and the content will be slightly different. It will feature no language study, as this will be arranged by social ministry in a manner prolonged and more thorough.  

Ms Raag said 187 people have applied for asylum in Estonia as at September this year, and the record number of 57 for international protection – mostly Ukrainians.

At end of year of beginning of the new, initial families needing international protection will be arriving from Italy. Mr Roosmaa said the training materials will be on offer over the Internet so those to arrive may get acquainted before they get here.


Directed towards trainings by Police and Border Guard Board from August 1st 2015

A total of 2,875, of whom

1,355 EU citizens

699 studying in Estonia

359 immigrated with family

319 with residence permit to work

Of these, country-wise:

466 from Ukraine

314 from Russia

300 from Finland

268 from Germany

103 from France

Source: interior ministry