Syrian woman suffers severe burns

Saskia Kask PHOTO: Liis Treimann

A 22-year-old Syrian woman, refugee and mother of a 2,5 year-old baby, was taken to the hospital in critical condition at around 5.30 p.m. on Tuesday after she had suffered severe burns in her Majaka street apartment in Tallinn's Lasnamäe borough.

The police and the prosecution gave the press an overview of the incident yesterday. A criminal investigation is underway based on serious physical harm caused out of negligence.

It remains unclear what transpired in the refugee family's apartment on Tuesday. The woman has suffered very serious burns and is in critical condition, which is why it is impossible for her to give statements.

“She cannot tell us what happened to her because she is unconscious, in critical condition at the hospital. She suffered her injuries at home in the presence of her 19-year-old husband and their 2,5-year-old child,” said senior prosecutor of the Northern District Prosecutor's Office Saskia Kask.

The police and the prosecution said they are looking into three versions of events none of which is held to be more likely than the others at this point.

“First, it's possible there was an accident. Next we have the possibility of attempted suicide. Thirdly, we could be dealing with a crime,” Kask said. “However, I will say again that all three options are on the table as equal possibilities, and the police are working hard to determine what really happened.”

The woman called her own ambulance in English. “The reason for that is probably that her husband's English is very poor, and naturally he does not speak Estonian,” said head of the serious crimes unit of the Northern Police Prefecture Roger Kumm.

There are no signs to suggest the woman had tried to take her own life in the past. The police said the family regularly kept in touch with their support person in Estonia.

Authorities also cannot rule out a crime was committed in which case it could only have been perpetrated by the husband who was next to his spouse trying to put out the fire with water when help arrived. The 19-year-old Syrian was detained for 48 hours on Tuesday after he gave partly conflicting and improbable statements. The man was in shock and can only communicate via an interpreter.

“His statements are being verified, and we cannot reveal what he said,” the prosecutor said.

The couple's child has been placed in the care of specialists.

The scene has been investigated thoroughly, while test results are still outstanding. It remains unclear whether a flammable agent was used in case the fire was purposefully set.

The possibility of an accident is supported by the fact the incident took place next to a gas stove in the kitchen. The woman was wearing flammable clothing.

The police said there have been no problems with the family in the past.

The young family are refugees relocated from Greece in June. Estonia has taken in a total of 107 refugees from Syria, Yemen, and Iraq in the past year most of whom have been relocated from Greece.

Postimees interviewed quota refugees living in Lasnamäe last September; however, these were not Syrian families. The refugees said that the hardest thing is the fact they do not speak English and stick out in the crowd.

“You might get into trouble when you go out at night in certain areas, like Lasnamäe for example. If you keep walking, mind your own business, and do not communicate, you can avoid problems. If you sit down somewhere... It's different in Greece; you can go where you want without being conspicuous. Here people walk up to you to ask where you're from, why are you here, and why are you not going home,” refugees said regarding their life in the capital.

Men wanted to find a job above all.

The father of a Syrian family living in Haapsalu was arrested last November. It is alleged the man, who had lived in Estonia for several months by then, had threatened to kill his wife on November 12. Information from the prosecution suggests he is still in custody, with the court set to hear the matter in May.

Head of international protection policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs Triin Raag said in November that support persons are trained to handle cultural differences and receive other refresher courses. One such training support persons received this year is how to notice and report close relationship violence.