Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas replied to the interpellation concerning the potential pressure on the Estonian-Russian border (No. 181), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Andres Herkel, Artur Talvik, Jüri Adams, Krista Aru, Andres Ammas, Ain Lutsepp, Külliki Kübarsepp and Monika Haukanõmm on 16 March.
The interpellators referred to the fact that a serious situation had arisen at the Norwegian-Russian and Finnish-Russian border last autumn when hundreds of applicants for asylum, mostly with a Russian visa or residence permit, had appeared at the border. As there are thousands of potential applicants for asylum in Russia, and more may come, the threat persists. Refugees may be sent to the Estonian-Russian border next. Estonia will have to be ready to strengthen border surveillance and ensure compliance with laws on the border even in the most extreme circumstances. Applications for asylum will have to be processed quickly and in strict compliance with rules. All people who have no basis for stay in Estonia will have to be sent back to Russia.
The interpellators pointed out that it was an urgent security issue. Therefore they asked the Prime Minister to explain what the Government’s risk assessment relating to potential mass migration towards the Estonian-Russian border was.
Rõivas said that, according to a risk assessment drawn up by competent administrative agencies of Estonia, it is not likely that Estonia will become a target country for illegal migration in the near future in so far as we lack the pull factors for migration, such as existing communities. “However, there is a greater likelihood of potential groups arriving at the Estonian border with the intention to use Estonia as a transit country. The groups would probably be small-numbered, and there is little likelihood that the hundreds of people who simultaneously cross the border illegally or arrive at a border crossing point will apply for international protection,” Rõivas noted. “We communicate with our colleagues both in the north – Finland, Norway, Sweden – and in the south – Latvia, Lithuania, Poland – on a daily basis, to prevent all kinds of possible scenarios, also those that are not very likely.”
Rõivas emphasised the importance of a modern and secure eastern border. “The full development of a high-technology eastern border is one of the most important priorities for the Government which will see a total investment of over EUR 70 million over four years,” Rõivas said. He explained that all activities of the project of the full development of the eastern border are directed at the prevention of illegal border crossing, and the protection the security of the external borders of Estonia, the European Union and NATO, as well as the prevention of cross-border crime.
Rõivas said that, as at present, circa 90 per cent of the 134-kilometre land border has been deforested and milled. “In June this year, the actual construction works and the construction of the infrastructure will be started. To physically prevent illegal border crossing, we will construct sufficiently high and strong boundary fences where necessary. We will install an up-to-date technical surveillance system at the border strip that will help detect illegal crossing of the border and cross-border crime, and certainly will also enhance national security,” the Prime Minister said. He added that, in order to ensure the guarding of the external border, we are planning to procure the necessary technology – from drones to radars, sensors and observation equipment. “In addition to investment into technology and infrastructure, we also attach importance to a motivating salary of border guards. Today we can be sure that the Estonian border is secure, and that is largely thanks to the good work of our border guards,” Rõivas noted.
The Prime Minister also replied to the interpellation concerning the decrease of population (No. 187).
The Minister of Public Administration Arto Aas replied to the interpellation concerning the general plan of the public administration reform and state museums (No. 168).
The Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kristen Michal replied to the interpellation concerning the procuring of the ice-breaker Botnica (No. 173).
The Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi replied to the interpellation concerning the public procurements of study materials (No. 175) and the interpellation concerning the progress of Estonian language instruction in Russian-language schools (No. 177).
The reply of the Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur to the interpellation concerning the termination of the activities of the Police and Border Guard College in Muraste, and the transfer of the activities to Paikuse (No. 189), submitted by members of the Free Party Faction, was excluded from today’s agenda. The Minister will reply to this interpellation at the sitting of 9 May.
The sitting ended at 6.50 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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