Estonian Refugee Council's activities can be divided into four broad categories:
- assistance with cultural, social and labour market integration of refugees;
- raising public awareness on refugee issues in Estonia;
- advocacy work and representation of refugee interest;
- providing humanitarian aid outside of Estonia.
First, ERC works to support the integration of refugees into the Estonian society. While refugees are a rather small group in the Estonian society, their problems remain significant: there is little or almost no support from the state for the integration into the new host society (e.g. no help with housing, no free language courses, no labour market integration measures). ERC supports refugees with cultural adaptation, labour market integration, housing, health services, language learning, etc. We also run a wide network of volunteers who work with refugees on their integration problems.
Second, ERC works to create better awareness about the situation of refugees among Estonian public, especially the youth. Since the number of refugees is rather low and they do not stand out in public debates, the awareness is very low about the specific problems refugees face. Quite often the public considers refugees as regular or irregular migrants rather than people who are fleeing harassment or dangerous situations. There is a need to develop better awareness about refugees: who they are, why they flee, what kind of situations they go through and what kind of help they need.
Third, ERC aims to become the main refugee representative organization in Estonia. We aim to protect the interest of refugees and carry out advocacy work to develop better integration measures for refugees by the state and local government in Estonia. We initiated the roundtable of Estonian refugee NGOs in 2012 with an aim to coordinate the advocacy work and to exchange information among the NGOs working with refugees. The roundtable meets at least 3 times a year and it has 3 full members (+ 1 associative member). We aim to increase our advocacy work by developing a annual report that will include the analysis of the state of art in asylum and refugee policy of Estonia.
Fourth, ERC is building up its capacity to respond to humanitarian crises abroad. Our first humanitarian project is concerned with aiding people who were internally displaced in Ukraine because of the civil war which started in 2014. Funds for that project are gathered mainly through public donation campaign "For Ukraine!" (read more about the project on the campaign webpage).
ERC participates in the EU learning network SaviAV 2011-2013 and is an associate member of ECRE (European Centre of Refugees and Exiles).