Estonia is a small Northern European country with a population of only 1.3 million.
Since gaining its independence in 1991, it shortly built a reputation of being the heart of digital society, where world-changing startups are born, now even having its first female President.
Despite the rapid development of the economy, societal tensions and unresolved issues from the legacy of a history full of slavery and occupations of Estonian people are now emerging.
Since 2015, when Europe faced a peak of humanitarian crisis and with people fleeing their war-torn countries in the most inhumane, dangerous ways, the EU was supposed to share its responsibility of giving safety to these people.
So Estonia agreed to help with the bare minimum by allowing 40 refugees a year in to the country.
The right-wing politicians began claiming that the current wave of migrants will create a system of oppression; like that seen under the Soviet Union, blatantly lying to the general public.
A couple months ago, when the country elected a new government, the Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, who represents the Central Party (Keskerakond), shocked the nation by forming a coalition with aggressive far-right party EKRE (Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond).
That has resulted in increasing acts of racial and religious discrimination towards people of colour.
Today, Estonia has given asylum to 205 refugees.
Refugees are people that flee from war and persecution, fearing for their own lives and their loved ones’ lives. They are people that no longer have a homeland.
This is not something that should be clarified in 2019, but no matter the clear evidence a whole chunk of society confuses refugees to the ones that have turned these people into refugees.
The refugee experience in Estonia can be summed up by one word – isolation.
From the very beginning when refugees arrive in the country they are given shelter in some small apartment complexes that are in the middle of endless fields – civilisation nowhere to be seen.
Majority of the school-aged children experience bullying at school, schoolmates using the word “Pagulane” (refugee) as if it’s a swear word.
Adults, even if they are well-educated and experts in their fields, often have to accept a low position job, as employers have an opinion that the label ‘refugee’ also means lazy or well off because of the support money received from government.
Families, that are in search of accommodation in cities in order to get back to regular living, have to search for an apartment for months at least, not because there’s not many but even phones have been hung up after the realtor hears the country of origin for these families.
In truth, the refugees in Estonia have in record time managed to create their own businesses like running a restaurant or offering catering services.
They work very hard on learning the language, with the majority of the children speaking Estonian fluently.
People receive about €140 monthly support from the funds given to Estonia by the EU.
What frustrates the youth most about the situation at school is the fact that they have missed out on crucial years of education and take the opportunity of education seriously but this is being made difficult by peers and teachers.
Besides that, public transportation is being avoided whenever possible, especially by women who wear a hijab as fellow passengers make it uncomfortable to say the least with the intense stares or even ‘’shooing” away a kid from sitting next to a local.
Estonians as a whole are not bad people.
Considering the history, Estonians have gone through so much and there has not been a time like now, that the country has been independent for this long.
The locals have a predetermined mindset of refugees and people of color that is incomplete and not accurate, which desperately needs to be challenged.
Rather than focusing on some stories that project refugees and migrants in a negative way or are even often made up, the media should spread more success stories that shows more accurate data sets of the situation.
Refugees in Estonia are amongst a small percentage of people that have made it to host countries where they can now begin rebuilding their lives.
They no longer have to stay in fear when falling asleep, the children are getting an education and can safely play in the playground.
These people have received a new chance in life and society should do its best to support them.
But will these small communities in Estonia and other European countries that struggle with white supremacy, really be able to feel safe?
So far there is no evidence that the Police Department is taking extra measures in protecting foreigners.
Many fear the worst while the locals, who do not understand the harassment, are clueless and in denial of the reality.
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