Detention & Immigration

When can you be detained when entering or staying in Estonia without legal grounds and how?

State authorities are allowed to detain you when you enter or stay in Estonia without legal grounds. However, as such detention is a very severe restriction of your liberty, it must be lawful, necessary in democratic society, in accordance with the principle of proportionality and have a legitimate aim. Upon detention relevant circumstances related to you shall be taken account. The grounds for this detention are explained in the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act.

Moreover, you must be treated humanely while in detention. Namely, you must be held in appropriate conditions and protected from all forms of abuse. 

In case you are in a position that your detention has not been lawful you have the right to

  • apply for free state legal aid
  • appeal the court decision

Article 10 of the Aliens Act stipulates that while you are staying in Estonia you have guaranteed rights and freedoms equal to those of an Estonian citizen unless the Constitution, Aliens Act, other legislation or a treaty binding on Estonia provides otherwise. You are guaranteed the rights and freedoms arising from the generally recognized standards of international law and international practice.

The conditions and procedure for detention of a foreigner placed in the detention center on the basis of the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act and the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens are set down in Internal rules of detention centre, regulation of the minister of the interior

It should be brought out that according to article 258 of the Penal Code illegal crossing of the state border or temporary border line of the Republic of Estonia if the act does not contain the necessary elements of malicious entry into the Republic of Estonia and was committed: in disregard of a stop signal or order given by a police officer; by a group; or by a means of transport in a location not intended for crossing; is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to one year of imprisonment. Therefore, it means if you have crossed Estonian border illegally criminal procedure might have been initiated as well in parallel to your expulsion procedure.

Detention grounds, when detention is based on criminal or misdemeanour procedure, are brought out in Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Misdemeanour Procedure. A person can be detained also based on Law Enforcement Act – i.e. the police or, in the cases provided by law, another law enforcement agency may detain a person by locking him or her to a room or a vehicle or by restricting his or her physical liberty in another manner to a significant extent if it is unavoidable for preventing the commission of an imminent criminal offence and/or for countering an immediate threat endangering a person’s life or physical inviolability.

About this Guide

This Guide will explain: 

  • the grounds on which you may be detained (in an immigration context) and how
  • the grounds for the detention to be lawful
  • the basic rights that you have during the detention
  • where you will stay and how you must be treated, and 
  • how you can complain about issues related to your detention
Last updated 30/03/2017