Adaptation of Newly-Arrived Migrants in Estonia

The aim of this study was to describe the current situation of how newly-arrived immigrants are adapting in Estonia – which factors inhibit the adaptation of newly-arrived immigrants and which factors support it.

The qualitative method was mainly used for collecting information for this study – interviews and focus group interviews with newly-arrived immigrants (direct target group), as well as with persons who interact with this target group from universities and employers as well as from the public, third and private sector (indirect target group or stakeholders). Our study also includes several results from other recent studies carried out in this field, as well as statistics and an overview of the services provided.

In the first half of the report, we describe in different chapters these changes separately by different thematic areas, i.e. in areas where the newly-arrived immigrants are mostly having challenges related to their life, work and studying in Estonia (e.g. labour market, education, healthcare, information space, learning Estonian, communities, etc.).

We also describe which services offered by various service providers are used by the newly-arrived immigrants in Estonia in these thematic areas (the so-called ecosystem of services).Each chapter on a specific thematic area includes (a) an overview of the currently offered services and service providers, (b) in-depth analysis of the situation considering the target group (newly-arrived immigrants) and stakeholders (employers, universities, state authorities, local governments, etc) and (c) recommendations for the improvement of the area. Where applicable, we also comment the results by comparing them to the 2014 adaptation study of newly-arrived immigrants, to describe the changes (or lack of changes) over the past five years. Thus, each chapter can be read on its own and the main results and recommendations have been provided separately under every chapter.

In the second half of the report, we discuss the cross-thematic topics which relate to varying degrees to majority of the newly-immigrants – for example, the awareness and competences of local governments, the use of social media and information usage by newly-arrived immigrants, mental health related issues, as well as the possibility for creating an index of integration to measure the adaptation-integration of newly-arrived immigrants.The report ends with the summary and main conclusions from the research. In this part, we present the major cross-sectoral challenges that Estonia faces in the adaptation of newly-arrived immigrants and that we find deserve the most attention based on the results of the study. In this part, we also present the policy recommendations and proposals from the analysis on how to improve the current situation in Estonia, categorised between the different thematic areas.

The major challenges identified with the research include topics which are mainly horizontal and cross-sectoral, i.e. topics which are regularly repeated in the various chapters of the study and which should be kept in mind and considered when developing or analysing an area in the future. The major challenges also consist of topics which are specific to a more specific area or target group of newly-arrived immigrants, but that we find also require special and in-depth attention.

For example, it is important to understand that newly-arrived immigrants are not a homogeneous group of people and there are significant variations inside this target group. Among others, they can be distinguished by the country of origin (including citizens of the European Union and third Adaptation of Newly-Arrived Migrants in Estoniacountries, returnees) or by the reasons for moving to Estonia (working, studying, family migration, international protection); thus, their needs, desires and concerns, as well as adaptability with different (Estonian, Russian, international) communities may be completely different from one other. Separate attention should also be paid to persons who have previously not been researched much – those who have registered a short-term employment in Estonia and are staying in Estonia based on a visa.

Some recurring concerns can also be highlighted as a result of this study. Although the lack of information is not a general problem in itself, its fragmentation and insufficient cooperation between different institutions and information providers raises concerns, e.g. when transferring or directing foreigner from one service to another. It is important that information regarding different services and life in Estonia would reach newly-arrived immigrants in as timely and user-friendly manner as possible.

Another recurring issue that is brought up is the lack of communication between the locals and newly-arrived immigrants. It is one of the major challenges for Estonia of how to promote meaningful contacts on the local level between locals and immigrants in a way which would, on the one hand, prevent the feeling of alienation and, on the other hand, support a sense of belonging and mutual integration, i.e. decrease in prejudices on both sides. The Estonian language skills of the newly-arrived immigrants are also important preconditions for the mutual interaction, which is why it is important to ensure that everyone who wants to can consistently learn Estonian.

For the long-term and sustainable adaptation policy, it is important to keep in mind that not anyonewishes to have access to all kind of different (public) services in Estonia. But those foreigners, who have the needs or might have them in their different stages of life in Estonia, should clearly understand how to access them and have quality of knowledge based on what to make informed decisions.