International protection

It is painful and difficult for me to recall why we had to leave home. We cried the whole way, especially my mother. She kept hugging us and telling that it will all be over soon. I am afraid to look into the past, it is just too scary. I only look into the future and hope that I can stay safe and protected here. Family is the most important thing! Ada from Syria 


  • An asylum seeker is a foreign national who has submitted an asylum application for international protection in Estonia. Asylum seeker status lasts until a decision by the Police and Border Guard Board or a court comes into effect. In case the application is approved, the person will be recognised as a refugee or beneficary of subsidiary protection.
  • A refugee is a third-country national or a stateless person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country. (Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council)
  • A beneficiary of subsidiary protection is a third-country national or a stateless person who does not qualify as a refugee, but in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned, if returned to his or her country of origin, or in the case of a stateless person, to his or her country of former habitual residence, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm, and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country. (Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council)
  • International protection is based on the international law with the purpose of protecting the fundamental rights of individuals outside their countries of origin. 


68,5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Nearly 25,4 million of them have been recognised as refugees; more than 3,1 million are still waiting for a decision on their asylum applicaiton. 57% of the world’s current refugees are from three countries: 6,3 million from Syria, 2,6 million from Afghanistan and 2,4 million from South Sudan (UNHCR).

Estonia joined the Geneva Convention of 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees and the New York Protocol of 1967 in the year 1997. Since then, Estonia has had the international duty to protect the foreign nationals whose country of nationality is unwilling or unable to protect them. Foreign nationals requesting for international protection need to submit an application for asylum. In case the application is approved, they will be recognised as refugees or  beneficaries of subsidiary protection. Refugees will be granted a residence permit for three years, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection for one year. The residence permits can be extended if necessary. Beneficiaries of protection are granted access to education, healthcare, accommodation, social benefits and labour market.

The number of applications for international protection submitted to EU Member States is  on the decline, just like the number of positive (i.e., protection-granting) decisions: while in 2016, downright 61% of all decisions were positive, in 2017, this number had dropped to 46%.

International protection in Estonia has been most often granted to Syrian citizens, 92 of whom were recognised as refugees and 93 as beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.

Minors who apply for asylum without an adult applicant are called unaccompanied minors. In Estonia, the number of unaccompanied minors has been very low – since 1997, there have been altogether 10 such applicants.

Estonia also contributes to solving the 2015 European migrant crisis by receiving refugees in the framework of the European Agenda on Migration. This involves resettling those in need of protection from refugee camps outside the European Union, or relocating them from overburdened EU Member States. By summer 2018, altogether 171 persons had been relocated and resettled to Estonia.

Estonia has established two accommodation centres to provide lodging for asylum seekers – one in Vao village, Väike-Maarja Parish, and another in Vägeva village, Jõgeva Parish.


Seotud materjalid

  • The Integration of Beneficiaries of International/Humanitarian Protection into the Labour Market: Policies and Good Practices