PPA admits foreign student expelled without legal basis

Student Reeta Bhandari (middle) in Helsinki.

PHOTO: Erakogu

Postimees wrote about the expulsion of a foreign student from Nepal that seemed unjust in early March. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has now admitted it made a mistake and said that the student’s residence permit must be restored.

The PPA revoked the residence permit of Mainor Business School student Reeta Bhandari, expelled her and her visiting husband and handed the young woman a two-year Schengen entry ban in March.

Bhandari’s “sin” was failure to notify her school that she was visiting family in Finland. The woman had visited relatives in Finland on numerous occasions, but the PPA was not aware of these past visits. The police saw it as an aggravating circumstance Bhandari was being paid a visit by her husband that led the authorities to conclude she had enrolled at the university simply to gain entry into the Schengen area.

Because Bhandari sued the PPA for wrongful treatment, the agency was forced to explain its decision. The PPA admitted their mistake even before the matter reached court.

“We found that the PPA violated norms of the administrative procedure act when it revoked the residence permit and ordered the expulsion as the person was not given sufficient freedom to present counterarguments and the PPA failed to ascertain all important circumstances,” PPA press representative Tuuli Härson told Postimees. She added that the decision needs to be overturned and the student’s residence permit restored.

“This means the person will be issued a residence permit card paid for by the PPA that will be sent to an embassy of her choice and will allow her to return to Estonia. The person can apply for compensation based on the state liability act by turning straight to the PPA,” Härson explained.

Bhandari’s legal counsel, Aldo Vassar from law firm Lindeberg, said that the PPA’s reply to the court showed the agency had no legal basis to revoke Bhandari’s residence permit and expel her from Estonia.

It would have been possible to expel Reeta Bhandari if her school had exmatriculated her for failure to stick to her curriculum or participate in studies or if Bhandari had broken an Estonian law. None of these conditions were met. Additionally, the obligation to notify the school of trips abroad is merely an agreement between the student and the school and is not based on any law.

“This makes it look like the PPA simply decided to expel the person without heed to whether there was any legal basis for it,” Vassar said.

The lawyer added that such administrative practice is unacceptable. “I would describe it as extremely regrettable behavior on the part of the PPA,” he said.

Because Bhandari was forced to pay for tickets to Nepal, she has suffered financial damages. Vassar said the student has also suffered moral damage due to the police’s unlawful conduct and that it is probable the action regarding both will continue. Even though Härson said Bhandari has the right to apply for compensation, the PPA has refused to pay her legal costs so far.

“If the PPA refuses to compensate her extrajudicially, we will take a claim for compensation to court next,” the lawyer said.

Bhandari was glad to hear the PPA admitted its mistake. “Really? Can I return to Estonia or not?” was her first question. She said with a hint of disappointment in her voice that while the school has not helped her before, she would need their help to return.

Executive Manager of Mainor Business School Kristjan Oad said that Reeta Bhandari can continue her studies because her academic progress has been recorded and the school has accepted her once. Oad also said the school can help the student out.

“In any case, what we need is official confirmation there are no legal restrictions to Reeta coming to study in Estonia from the state or the PPA and a declaration of intention to continue her studies from Reeta Bhandari. We can take it from there,” the school’s manager said.