European Union – Events of 2015. Estonia ranks 10th in terms of stateless populations worldwide
According to the Interior Ministry, as of June 2015, about 6.3 percent of the country’s population of 1.3 million is stateless.
In 2015, the government adopted measures to decrease child statelessness and simplify the naturalization process for older people.
In January, the government amended the Citizenship Law to allow children born to stateless parents to automatically obtain Estonian citizenship at birth; previously, parents had to apply. Parents can reject Estonian citizenship on behalf of their children within a year.
The amendments also exempt people 65 and older from the written portion of the mandatory Estonian language exam for naturalization.
Language test requirements remain the most significant naturalization challenge for the country’s Russian-speaking population.
The cost of naturalization, including application and language exam preparation, and the income requirements for citizenship, continue to disenfranchise poorer long-term residents, and have contributed to statelessness among the Russian speakers.
The up-front cost of language classes to prepare for the test poses a considerable financial obstacle for non-citizens with modest or no income. The state reimburses language class fees only after the applicant passes the test.
Stateless residents do not enjoy full employment rights and are barred from occupying several professions, such as posts in the national and local civil service, police, and customs, and they may not become prosecutors, judges, or notaries.
The government has not taken sufficient steps to prepare for implementation of the Co-habitation Act, which was passed in October 2014 and enters into force in 2016. The act extends the rights of married couples to unmarried—including same-sex—couples.
Estonia maintains a minimalist refugee policy. The government agreed to accept 329 asylum seekers over a two-year period under the EU relocation scheme, but at time of writing, no one had yet been relocated. Asylum seekers encounter serious obstacles in receiving translation support in their language during refugee status determination interviews.