Record-breaking number of asylum seekers in Estonia last year

  • 2024-02-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - In 2023, over 12,766 people applied for protection in Estonia, the majority of whom were war refugees from Ukraine.

A total of 8,782 Ukrainian war refugees applied for temporary protection. There were 3,984 applicants for international protection, with the vast majority, 3,776 people, also being citizens of Ukraine. Citizens of the Russian Federation were second in the number of international protection applications with a total of 73 requests, and 18 applications were submitted by citizens of Belarus. Along with them, citizens of Afghanistan and Georgia made up the top five, with 16 and 13 applications respectively.

Marina Poldma, an expert at the Identity and Status Bureau, said that the number of people in need of international protection is influenced by the full-scale war in Ukraine, and before 2022, the number of applications for international protection rarely exceeded a hundred. 

"For the second year in a row, a record number of people in need of protection are arriving at our borders. Estonia remains open to those fleeing the war, but we also ensure that no one who poses a threat to Estonia's public order and security enters," Poldma said, adding that each case of international protection status is considered individually, as all the circumstances need to be determined. A person genuinely in need of assistance and protection will receive an affirmative response to their application, she noted.

In addition to reviewing first-time protection applications, the Police and Border Guard Board also extended the protection status of war refugees who had received temporary protection in the preceding year. A total of 33,215 people applied for an extension of their temporary protection status. 

"At the start of full-scale war, temporary protection was granted to war refugees for up to one year, leading to the need to extend temporary protection for a very large number of people last year. We used a web environment for quick and convenient renewal of documents, which also reduced the workload on our service offices," Poldma said, specifying that that the temporary protection currently applied for is valid until March 3, 2025.

Since February 2022, a total of 50,654 people have received temporary protection in Estonia. Temporary protection status is a subtype of international protection.

In 2022, a total of 2,940 people applied for international protection in Estonia. Before the full-scale war in Ukraine in 2021, this number was just 80.