Finland has temporarily stopped issuing new visas for berry pickers from Thailand

Finland has temporarily stopped issuing new visas for berry pickers from Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar who applied at the Finland embassy in Bangkok.

Mar 16, 2024 - 14:36
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Finland has temporarily stopped issuing new visas for berry pickers from Thailand

Finland has temporarily stopped issuing new visas for berry pickers from Thailand

Finland has temporarily stopped issuing new visas for berry pickers from Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar who applied at the Finland embassy in Bangkok. This decision comes from Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs due to an increasing problem of human trafficking associated with this program.

The Finnish government aims to address this issue comprehensively before restarting the program in 2025, so they're suspending the visa issuance for the summer of 2024. However, other types of visas are still being issued as usual.

Previously, visas for wild-berry picking were granted assuming that pickers would engage in activities similar to tourism, picking berries freely under the "Everyman’s Right" and selling them. However, it's now clear that many pickers are entering employment contracts, contrary to this assumption, the ministry said.

They said there have been serious allegations of human trafficking involving hundreds of victims in this sector. Therefore, Finland is prioritizing the prevention of exploitation and trafficking when considering visa applications.

In January, Thailand's Department of Special Investigation announced charges against two former ministers and two high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Labour. They're accused of accepting bribes totaling around 36 million baht to facilitate the sending of about 12,000 Thai workers to Finland between 2020 and 2023.

These officials allegedly demanded 3,000 baht from a Thai recruitment company for each worker sent for wild berry picking in Finland. Some of these workers fell victim to human trafficking.

The DSI did not name the ministers and high-ranking officials who were allegedly involved. The Minister of Labor from 2020 to 2023 was Suchart Chomklin from the Palang Pracharath Party, who has since moved to become the current deputy leader of the Raum Thai Sang Chart Party.

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