Human Rights in Estonia

From: MINELRES moderator <>
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 22:02:56 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: Human Rights in Estonia

From: MINELRES moderator <>

Original sender: Legal Information Centre for Human Rights

Human Rights in Estonia

Family reunification issue is one of most serious problems in present
Estonia. The LICHR (Legal Information Centre for Human Rights)
repeatedly tried to initiate the amendment of the Aliens Act and
specifically its articles concerning the immigration quota. In order
to amend the legislation the LICHR has initiated a number of lawsuits
over refusal to issue the residence permits for spouses of Estonian
residents on the grounds of exhausted immigration quota.

One of those cases was brought to the Supreme Court a year and a half
ago. The hearing will take place on 20th of April. We suppose that the
decision of the Court will be based on the international rules and
promote the amendment of the legislation.

The crux of the matter is that a lot of people have difficulties in
their family life because of number of legal restrictions. Firstly,
the immigration quota, which is established annually by the Government
of the Republic, is too small (e.g. - 610 persons for this year).
Secondly, the immigration quota is also applied to the family
reunification. Besides that, the resident of Estonia who wants to
reunite the family must have permanent legal income (the scale of the
income is established by Government decree) during the last 6 months.
This requirement is not extended over spouses of Estonian citizens who
apply for residence permits.

The provisions of the Aliens Act limit the range of persons who may
apply the residence permit for settling with close relative residing
in Estonia. A parent or grandparent may apply for it in order to
settle with his or her adult child or grandchild if the parent or
grandparent needs care, which cannot be received in the country of his
or her location or in another state. So, the Act allows only a
"one-side" possibility for issuing a residence permit. Only parents
and grandparents may apply for it to settle with child but not the
other way round. Thus, according to the Aliens Act the sole
opportunity for an elderly residing in Estonia to receive care of his
or her child is to leave his or her country of residence (irrespective
of legal status of the person). This provision is in contradiction
with Article 27 of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, which
states that "the family shall be responsible for the care of its
dependent members." Moreover, according to the Aliens Act such close
relatives as brothers and sisters are not considered eligible for
temporary residence permits. 

Articles 8 and 12 of the European Convention for Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) considers relations between
spouses or close relatives as a form of family life. Estonian
immigration laws prevent the residence applicants from enjoying their
normal and regular family life. This way, the sovereign right of the
State to control the immigration conflicts with its obligation to
respect family life. 

The official explanation for the established immigration quota is that
the Government aims to limit the number of the immigrants. However,
the achievement of this purpose is not possible, as the immigration
quota does not apply to citizens of the European Union, the United
States of America, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Japan (a total of
800 million potential immigrants). So, the citizens of the above
mentioned states may reunite with the members of their family in
Estonia outside of the immigration quota. Evidently, the immigration
quota (the limitation on the number of foreigners allowed for
migrating into the country) discriminates the other states' citizens
and infringes the principle of equality before law. It is not clear
why the citizens of the EU and other "civilized" country citizens
should enjoy a preferential treatment over Estonia's permanent

Instead of bringing the domestic law and the Aliens Act into
accordance with international standards the Minister of Interior
issued a decree that even more infringes the principles of
non-discrimination and equality before law. The Decrees divided the
immigration quota into 2 equal parts (305 permits per half a year) and
fixed the share of residence permits which might be issued on the
grounds of spouse relationship as follows: 

1. For spouses of Estonian citizens: 130 residence permits per half a
2. For spouses of European Union citizens (if spouse is not EU
citizen): 13;
3. For spouses of other country citizens or aliens: 20.

The Decree obviously discriminates people on the ground of
citizenship, although the Article 14 of the ECHR states specifically
that "the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground as
sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, association with a national minority,
property, birth or other status".

Considering all practical and theoretical aspects of the Aliens Act
implementation in Estonia, one has to conclude that the current
application of immigration quotas on the family reunification process
is discriminatory and violates a number of provisions of the ECHR.

The Legal Information Centre for Human Rights
Nunne str 2, 10133 Tallinn, Estonia
Tel (+372 ) 64 64 27 0
Fax (+372) 64 64 272
Web site: Http://

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