Recently, the leading state prosecutor, Steven-Hristo Evestus, published his views in the press on the issue of how to deal with foreigners who arrived in Estonia illegally. The answer tended to state that criminal proceedings are the solution. The rationale behind the latter was based on the postulate that one cannot always be satisfied with just deporting a person from Estonia, writes lawyer Kristjan Nõges.
According to the prosecutor, the prohibition signs must be clear and perceptible, and it is inadmissible to spread the opinion that Estonia is a transit yard, where you can freely cross or transport people without choosing the means, because no criminal proceedings await anyone here.
As a lawyer, I could of course applaud here, because the more the state constructs criminal procedures, the more pressing the need for my professional activity. However, from the taxpayer's point of view, I can only see how the treasury is burned with a bright flame, but our own people do not get warmth from it.
Following the example of the prosecutor, I will use an ordinary Vietnamese illegally arrived in Estonia as an example to explain the above. In the following, I will describe how he is doing in our rule of law and how potential criminal proceedings will affect it.
A Vietnamese who arrived in Estonia illegally faces deportation if he is detained. He can escape from the latter only if he is granted asylum in our country. It should be noted here that the question of granting asylum to a Vietnamese does not have the slightest contact with criminal proceedings.
Refugee vs Immigrant
However, normal practice shows that such a question is not raised, because a Vietnamese does not apply for asylum in our country. Generally, a Vietnamese is not a refugee, but merely an immigrant who is not granted international protection. If the Vietnamese is not aware of this, they will be thoroughly explained in this regard. As a rule, however, this is not necessary, since the Vietnamese did not intend to stay here for a long time. Strange or not, the Vietnamese vision of a better life does not include the Baltic Sea countries.
However, if criminal proceedings are initiated against a Vietnamese awaiting deportation, it means that the Vietnamese under investigation will not be deported from our country any time soon. Instead, he remains in a detention center, where he is forced to wait for upcoming proceedings.
However, the duration of initiated criminal proceedings is not measured in days or weeks, but in months. And regardless of whether it is summer or winter months, our guest has to be looked after throughout the criminal proceedings - he has to be fed, he has to be taken care of, etc. In the context of inhumane travel conditions, life in a detention center is more like a vacation for a Vietnamese.
Secondly, it should be noted that, as a rule, criminal proceedings are carried out in Southern Estonia, because that is where most illegal border crossings take place. The detention center, on the other hand, is located in Harju County, which is why the Vietnamese are moved from one end of the country to the other for most procedural actions. However, for this, an escort team must be employed, who must ensure that the Vietnamese actually reaches the destination and back.
The course of the procedure
Along with the convoy, an interpreter must also be included, otherwise it will not be possible to communicate with the Vietnamese. Finding an interpreter is an art in itself, since people who speak Vietnamese at the required level can be counted on the fingers of one hand in our country. In addition, the procedure must also be coordinated with a lawyer, who must also be present and ensure that the nobly started criminal proceedings proceed at least according to the rules.
At some point, the criminal proceedings will reach the court, where a decision must be made whether the Vietnamese has committed a crime by entering our country or not. If convicted, the Vietnamese will be sentenced to a suspended sentence, because actual imprisonment would not be appropriate, and in light of the economic situation of the Vietnamese, a financial penalty is out of the question.
On paper, the Vietnamese must compensate the state for some kind of procedural costs, but in reality this obligation is also inconsequential, because the Vietnamese does not have a penny behind his soul. But even if there were, unfortunately, even the hands of the most diligent bailiff cannot reach the rice fields of Vietnam. Therefore, the Vietnamese really does not care how our legal system evaluates his actions.
If a Vietnamese's tour of Maarjamaa ends with deportation one way or another, then the result of our criminal proceedings is just fuel for him, because it does not have a single real consequence. Could the described process somehow discourage the next Vietnamese who plans to arrive in Europe through Estonia? Probably, if he is afraid of free meals and medical care.
An expensive play
All in all, the criminal procedure against the Vietnamese is thus nothing more than a play with an insane budget, which leaves the audience completely cold. Therefore, and instead of feeding a foreigner waiting for a meaningless piece of paper in a detention center, we could instead feed our own people who live in poverty.
If our unwanted guest is subject to deportation one way or another, he should be deported as soon as possible. However, in order to ensure that he does not return to our country illegally, the means used to arrest him could be directed to the construction of a state border that cannot be crossed by accident. The judicial mills, on the other hand, could be left to grind such problems, the grinding of which is of real benefit to someone.
The opinion piece was published in the opinion section of Postimees newspaper on September 25, 2015.