What do Middle East migrant groups write about Estonia?


Belarus has launched a hybrid attack on Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, directing migrants from Middle East countries across their borders. As the refugee crisis has come so close to Estonia, Propastop decided to investigate what information people who plan to flee to Europe are receiving about Estonia.

Migrants communicate on Social Media
Reports of what is happening in Belarus and Lithuania reach Iraqi people through their domestic press. For example, we found three stories from the Iraqi online publications Voice of Iraq, Almada Paper and Al Masalah, which describe the situation in Lithuanian refugee camps. (Chrome’s translation application helps you understand the content of the stories.) It cannot be said that these articles are advertising travel to Europe via Belarus, but rather show this path as obstructive and dangerous.

However, migrants extract a significant amount of information from elsewhere. True information and personal experiences, as well as rumors and misinformation, are shared via smartphones in various messaging applications. For example, during the wave of refugees from Syria in 2016, the most popular communication channels were Whatsapp, Viber and Facebook Messenger. Because the groups in these apps are private, it’s hard to get an idea of ​​the content of the conversations that take place there.

On Facebook, on the other hand, the social networks of Arab migrants are easy to follow. We searched for information from groups such as “Helping Refugees in Greece and Europe“, “Migrant News” and “Ishtar for Immigration and Asylum“. Getting an overview of the content of Arabic language posts is facilitated by Facebook’s translation application – the crux of the matter is understandable, although the translation is sometimes absurdly cumbersome.

What information is shared about Estonia?
Reports of the situation in Estonia reach the group’s followers through the distribution of news from press publications. For example, there are two articles on strengthening Estonian border control, which reached the groups mediated by the Russian Interfax and the Lithuanian publication LRT. These posts are unlikely to increase Estonia’s popularity as a refugee destination.

On the other hand, we can cite a post from last year, for example, which advertises Estonia with reference to the data of the European Commission as one of the five European countries where it is easiest to obtain a refugee visa.

You can also find a post that shares information about the section of the border between Estonia and Russia called Saatse’s boot. It gives the impression that this place could be the best place to enter Estonia illegally.

Estonia, like the other Baltic countries, is not the final destination of migrants, but these countries are perceived as a gateway to more desirable European countries, like Germany, Sweden or Finland. An example of sharing information about these connections is a post that shows Estonia as a waypoint for entering Finland.

Finally, for example, a user’s question and comments provide an in-depth overview of the journey from Baghdad to Lithuania, with prices and stops. This is the information on which migrants arriving in the Baltic States via Belarus base their travel plans.

Estonia is not an important destination country
Based on this brief search, Estonia does not seem to be an important destination country for Middle East refugees, at least for the time being. There is not much talk about Estonia in the groups; the focus of migrants is elsewhere.

It could be in Estonia’s interest to monitor these and other similar groups in order to receive early warnings of a possible increase in interest. It could also be useful to share via the Arabic language true information about Estonia – so migrants will not base their movements on false information or rumors.

If the Propastop reader wants to continue the search on his / her own, the Arabic words الإستونية (Estonia), لاتفيا (Latvia) and ليتوانيا (Lithuania) are suitable. If you find interesting information, share it with Propastop.

Images: Screenshots of posts and groups referenced in the story.