Estonian PM: Accepting refugees must remain voluntary

  • 2018-06-30
  • LETA/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas emphasized at the European Council's migration discussion on Thursday that the European Union has to have a better control over its external border and the organization needs stronger cooperation with third countries, while accepting refugees has to remain voluntary.

"We need better cooperation with countries outside the European Union and we have to send back more efficiently the people who have no right to be granted international protection in the EU. We must also support member states that are experiencing the biggest migration pressure," Ratas said.

The EU leaders also discussed the idea of setting up regional migration centers. "This idea deserves further discussion. There are many legal and practical issues regarding creating such centers that need to be solved in cooperation with international organizations. Relocation and resettlement in the framework of that would remain voluntary," the head of government said.

According to Ratas, it is also important to find ways to motivate countries outside the EU to cooperate. "We need a stable, but also flexible, funding model for dealing with migration. Estonia is ready to contribute an additional 150,000 euros to the Trust Fund for Africa," Ratas said. By now Estonia has supported the fund with 1.45 million euros.

Migration pressure has considerably declined in the past few years as a result of joint efforts, Ratas said. The number of asylum seekers fell by 44 percent on year in 2017 and the number of illegal border crossings by 60 percent. "Irrespective of all the issues that still need solving, we have managed to get migration under control," he added.