What are the requirements for lawful detention in an immigration context?


You may be detained if you do not have a legal basis to be in Estonia. 

For example:

  • You have crossed the state border in an unauthorized place.
  • You do not have valid travel documents, a visa, a residence permit or you hide your identity. You do not have documents necessary for the return or the obtaining thereof from the receiving state or transit state is delayed.
  • You have not voluntarily left the country by the date indicated in your precept to leave (return decision).
  • The Estonian authorities have grounds to believe that you are a threat to national security or public order.
  • There is a risk of escape.
  • You do not not comply with the obligation to co-operate.

According to article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia everyone has the right to liberty and security of person and no one may be deprived of his or her liberty except in the cases and pursuant to a procedure provided by law:

  1. to enforce a judgment of conviction rendered or a detention ordered by a court

  2. for the case of non-compliance with a direction of a court, or to guarantee fulfilment of a duty provided by law

  3. to prevent a criminal or administrative offence, to bring before a competent authority a person in relation to whom there is reasonable suspicion that he or she has committed such an offence, or to prevent such a person from absconding

  4. to place a minor under disciplinary supervision or to bring him or her before a competent authority to determine whether to impose such supervision

  5. to detain a person suffering from an infectious disease, a person of unsound mind, an alcoholic or a drug addict, if such a person is a danger to himself or herself or to others

  6. to prevent illegal settlement in Estonia and for removing a person from Estonia or for extraditing a person to a foreign state

The specific grounds for detention, when you are in the country without a legal basis, are explained in the article 15 (2) of the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act. 

Human rights standards

Even if there are grounds to detain you, your detention will only comply with human rights standards if:

  • there is an intention to return you to your country and not to keep you endlessly in detention for some other reason
  • you are held in a place meant for the detention of immigrants. Read more about the detention place, conditions and treatment.

Grounds for your detention – action taken by Estonia with a view to your deportation – has to remain valid for the whole period of your detention and there has to be realistic prospect of your expulsion. Estonian authorities have to conduct the proceedings with due diligence. 

What human rights violation may there be?

If you are not detained according to lawful grounds and/or following lawful procedures, it may result in the violation of the right to liberty and security of a person.


Last updated 30/04/2019