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Finland Suspends Visa Issuance for Thai Berry Pickers

The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that the granting of visas to natural berry pickers in Thailand has been suspended.

In this regard, the Ministry said that this decision has come as a result of many uncertainties regarding the information given in visa applications, including the risk of human trafficking, the ongoing investigation by the police in Finland and possible changes in the status of wild berry pickers, reports.

The Finland Embassy in Thailand has instructed the Ministry to suspend the issuance of visas since November last year.

“The Ministry of Labor and the Economy has prepared a proposal to amend the seasonal work regulation, which would make the collection of natural products part of the employment relationship. The round of comments on the proposal has just ended, and a possible regulation change is planned to be issued in time before the start of the harvest season,”the  Ministry said in its statement.

According to the Ministry, based on this change, pickers would come to Finland as seasonal workers in the future.

The same states that seasonal workers can apply for a visa for seasonal work at the Finnish embassy, which is valid for a maximum of 90 days.

In addition, the application of wild berry pickers’ visas began on a larger scale at the end of spring due to the approach of the harvest season.

Thai citizens have the right to continue to submit a visa application for other types of visas at the Finnish embassy in Bangkok. Applications are processed individually in accordance with visa regulations, whereby the reliability of the information provided in the application, purpose of travel and available funds are evaluated as always.

As for the foreign berry pickers in Finland, they comprise 85 to 90 percent. Last year there were about four thousand Thai collectors in Finland and more than three thousand are expected by next summer.

As executive director of the Arctic Flavours Association Birgitta Partanen explains, alternative solutions should be looked at in cooperation with industry actors. Partanen also added that the purpose of the visa ban is extremely good and valid, but the means are wrong.

Meanwhile, the Arctic Flavors Association, the national advocacy for wild berries, herbs, mushrooms and specialty forest products, has come out in opposition to redefining pickers as employees rather than self-employed light entrepreneurs. The latter also warned yesterday that the suspension of visas could have serious consequences for the industry.



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