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Today, the European Union Affairs Committee convened for an extraordinary sitting to discuss Estonia’s readiness to receive individuals caught in a dangerous situation in Afghanistan. The Committee agreed that the Government resolution to receive those in need of help is absolutely necessary, and expressed its support to it.

The Chairman of the Committee Riina Sikkut pointed out that the current situation in Afghanistan is extremely volatile, which is why the Government decided at its meeting yesterday to resettle or relocate up to 30 individuals in need of international protection from Afghanistan to Estonia. “Taliban’s rise to power is a threat to human rights, especially the rights of women and girls, and to the lives of those who cooperated with NATO and the previous authorities of Afghanistan. This is why it is crucial for Estonia to show willingness to help these people, and to act fast,” Sikkut said.

Member of the Committee Oudekki Loone said that checking the backgrounds of those arriving in Estonia is undoubtedly important, as is interviewing them, but that this must be conducted in a way that does not slow down the process of extracting them from Afghanistan. “The first priority is to evacuate the individuals at risk – we have very little time left for helping them out of the country,” she stressed. Loone explained that Estonia is giving priority to our immediate collaborators who now find themselves in danger. “By receiving these individuals, we are proving that Estonia can be taken seriously: we care about our cooperation partners and refuse to leave them behind in difficult circumstances,” Loone said. She added that we are very capable of integrating 30 individuals into the Estonian society, and take their needs into consideration.

As of yesterday, 31 individuals had applied for help from Estonia. The background checks will be conducted by the Police and Border Guard Board, who will make the final decision on granting international protection. The plan is to bring the individuals at risk to Estonia under the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens, which means that they can be either resettled directly from a third country, or be relocated from another European Union Member State.

The European Union Affairs Committee decided to support the decision of the Government, according to which Estonia will receive up to five NATO collaborators, and their family members; up to five European Union collaborators, and their family members; and up to 20 individuals, and their family members, who have worked in Afghanistan together with Estonian organisations and have helped in carrying out Estonia’s foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan.

The participants at the sitting also emphasised how important it was to help the countries around Afghanistan, such as Iran and Pakistan, to support their ability to better protect those fleeing the country.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets and Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani also attended the sitting, as did the Head of the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior Ruth Annus, and National Security and Defence Coordination Director of the Government Office Indrek Sirp.

Riigikogu Press Service
Merilin Kruuse
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