Interior minister, police chief warn of emergence of immigration problems

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme and Director General of the Police and Border Guard Board Elmar Vaher.

PHOTO: Madis Veltman

Estonian Minister of the Interior Mart Helme and Director General of the Police and Border Guard Board Elmar Vaher said that growing immigration in Estonia may also entail problems that have so far mainly been faced by Western European states.

Helme told journalists on Tuesday that “nuclear communities” of immigrants are emerging in Estonia. According to the minister, these people want to live their lives within their community without integrating with the life outside of it. 

“On the one hand, international obligations and the human perspective say that we should support these people and through this support integrate them and provide them with jobs. On the other hand, we see that this support often grants them the opportunity to live this very same isolated life without sufficiently engaging with our day-to-day life and the surrounding environment,” Helme said.

According to Helme, the problems relating to migration, which so far have mainly emerged in Western Europe, have also made their way to Estonia.

“It would be extremely naive to believe that we won’t face these problems,” the minister said.

The emergence of these problems in Estonia is linked to two main causes for migration – student mobility and the subsequent migration of their families. 

“We can see that this is where problems are about to emerge and that communities from certain states are growing rapidly,” he said, adding that the size of the Indian community has ”skyrocketed” over the past couple of years and the Nigerian community in Estonia has grown too, mainly through student mobility and their families joining them in the country.

Director General of the Police and Border Guard Board Elmar Vaher said that the police does not presently regard immigration to be a significant threat to safety and security.

“We’ll keep our eyes open. As yet there is no tangible threat,” Vaher said.

“But if we do something wrong, this threat will emerge, however. For that reason, it is crucial that we carefully pay attention to what Finland, Sweden and Germany are doing,” Vaher said.

Helme noted that according to the internal security service, in Estonia too, immigrants mainly communicate within their ethic group, however, the size of these communities does not presently pose any problems in the society. 

“We cannot rule out isolated incidents, but we don’t have a systematic problem,” he said.

“We are investigating these issues very closely, teaching police officers about these cultures and about working in a multicultural situation,” Vaher added.

The police chief noted that it is possible that “communities, when they grow in size, start establishing their rituals, which often prove criminal.”

The minister of the interior added that while migration and integration issues are becoming increasingly topical, as yet there are no simple solutions to these problems.

Data from the Population Register shows that the number of Nigerian and Indian nationals residing in Estonia has significantly grown over the past couple of years. 

Citizens of Nigeria residing in Estonia numbered 435 on January 1, 2018, the figure had increased to 600 by January 1, 2019, and to 713 by the start of 2020.

Indian nationals numbered 532 in Estonia at the start of 2018, the figures in early 2019 and 2020 were 619 and 849, respectively.