Amendments to the Citizenship Law aimed at reducing statelessness among children came into force in January, although it did not include those aged 16 to 18. The number of asylum applications remained low.
Discrimination – ethnic minorities
As of December, 79,597 people resident in Estonia remained stateless – almost 6% of the population. The vast majority were Russian speakers.
On 1 January, amendments to the Citizenship Law came into force. These allow children born to stateless parents to acquire Estonian citizenship at birth automatically without application by a parent, as was required previously. They also allow children born in Estonia to hold citizenship of other countries until age 18. Stateless children aged under 15 residing in Estonia on 1 January 2016, and whose parents have lived in the country for at least five years, will also receive Estonian citizenship. The amendments did not include children aged 16 to 18 or those born outside the country to stateless residents of Estonia.
Roma continued to suffer discrimination across a range of economic and social rights, including lack of equal access to education, adequate housing and health care. The failure of the government to collect and monitor disaggregated socio-economic data on Roma and other vulnerable groups hindered its ability to effectively address their situation.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The number of asylum applications remained low compared to elsewhere in the EU; approximately 130 were received in the first nine months of 2016.
The European Commission criticized the government for rejecting relocation requests by asylum-seekers without providing substantiated reasons or on unjustified grounds. Concerns were also raised about the strict conditions families were required to meet before they could be considered for relocation under the EU relocation and resettlement scheme. By the end of the year, 66 people were relocated to Estonia.
In March, the government approved new regulations allowing a 90km fence to be built along its eastern border with Russia.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
On 1 January, the Cohabitation Act came into force, allowing unmarried, including same-sex, couples to register their cohabitation and have access to state benefits.