IRL wants legal refugee limit

Oktoobris Sloveenia ja Horvaatia piiril. Põgenikud on leidnud uue tee.

PHOTO: SIPA/Scanpix

With Estonia having to seek diligently for refugees desiring to live here so as to fill up the EU-imposed quota, a bill is making rounds in Riigikogu aimed at toughening our policy. 

Namely, Riigikogu constitutional committee is proceeding a long-named bill about providing international protection to foreigners. Important herewith to know the bill is rather irrelevant regarding the current migration crisis as the EU quotas are in force and Estonia will have to comply anyway.

Meanwhile, it is the EU that demands that the bill be updated so as to harmonise with its directives, leading to better treatment of refugees as prescribed to our current law.

Interior ministry sent the bill to government at the beginning of the summer and it reached Riigikogu in mid-September. Meanwhile, however, the entire world had changed. Politicians deemed it a need to react. So they took the above bill and voted it thru at first try.

Time for amendment proposals was granted till October 28th. Centre, EKRE, IRL and even UN made over 70 amendment proposals. Those by Centre, UN, and EKRE were discussed and some were judged to be expedient. Others were deemed useless and incompetent for aspects like demanding that EU directives be altered to fit our law.

But the amendment proposals by IRL are yet to be voted at constitutional committee. Why? On the other hand, they spent the time with proposals forwarded by others. On the other hand, those by IRL are somewhat more nationalist-conservative that these by others in the coalition – Reform and Soc Dems.  

As one, representatives of all three parties assure us of their definite desire that as for the help, asylum seekers should have no advantages before Estonians in need of like assistance. From there, IRL opinions begin to differ.

Shortly, IRL’s are as follows: set asylum seekers ceiling at 0.03 percent of Estonia’s permanent population per year; toughen the language requirements; lay on refugees the obligation to participate in acclimatisation programme; as well as to respect the core values of Estonian state and society, the Estonian language, culture, customs and traditions.  

A member of the committee Andres Anvelt (Soc Dems) says the latter proposal is declarative and a law should not contain such sentences. «These requirements are contained in other laws. I wonder that IRL demands such a thing as their justice minister Urmas Reinsalu has said not too many laws must be written and a law must be clear. Here is a little contradiction though I understand the political direction of the clause,» explained Mr Anvelt.

An IRL committee member Mart Nutt said the clause is needed because an individual coming from abroad should have an imagination of the local environment. «There is a similar clause in the constitution. But naturally that cannot be treated as something on the basis of which to bring anyone to justice,» admitted Mr Nutt.

Kalle Laanet (Reform) said, however, that what troubles them is the 0.03 percent thing. «Angela Merkel also said on Monday that the inflow of refugees into Germany should be limited but if people are in trouble we surely cannot talk about some quotas. The discussion is about if we can discuss at Riigikogu every time how big is Estonia’s capacity to receive refugees,» said Mr Laanet.

Mr Nutt said the exact limit could be argued about endlessly. «We need to assess our capacity somehow. But it is a matter of decision if it makes sense to write it in a law,» he said.

Already, the coalition has formed a working group to talks this through. The discussion has been postponed till next year. Meanwhile, the European Commission has let Estonia know the law needs to be harmonised with directives as soon as possible.

Interior ministry border guard policy head Janek Mägi said the deadline was in August, but the proceedings of the law has been prolonged by the increased acuteness of the crisis.

«No problem, we will adopt the directives as soon as possible, but the prolonged proceeding of the law will not directly affect reception of refugees in the framework of the crisis,» said Mr Mägi.

The interior ministry bill says it must enter into force on February 2nd. At the current tempo, Riigikogu will go over the deadline but should the constitutional committee okay it during the second week in January, maybe they will manage.  

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