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Estonia: Parliament Unanimously Enacts Refugee Law

By Andres Mae

Tallinn, 19 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Estonian parliament yesterday unanimously passed a law on refugees which establishes the rights and obligations of refugees arriving in Estonia.

The law also regulates the legal status of refugees, including asylum-seekers, and establishes a legal basis for their staying in the country.

The law is based on the United Nations' Geneva convention of 1951 and its additional protocol from 1967 that parliament is expected to approve soon.

The law says the Estonian government may grant asylum to persons persecuted in their homelands on racial, political or religious grounds. Asylum may be also granted to the asylum-seeker's spouse and children.

The law allows Estonian authorities to issue refugees with two-year renewable residence permits.

The law says Estonia will not grant asylum to war criminals and persons who have committed crimes against humanity, to persons whose presence in Estonia would threaten Estonia's security, and to persons fleeing their home country for economic reasons.