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Finland Suspends Visa for Thai Berry Pickers Amid Human Rights Concerns: A Pivot Towards Ethical Labor Practices

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Imagine standing amidst the serene, unspoiled forests of Finland, the air crisp and fresh, as you reach out to pick the juiciest, most luscious wild berries. This picturesque scene was once a reality for many Thai workers, who ventured to these Nordic woods, seeking not only adventure but also a unique opportunity to earn. However, recent developments as of November 2022 have cast shadows over this idyllic image, igniting debates and leading to significant policy changes by the Finnish government.

Deep within these tranquil landscapes, captured in a snapshot, were two Thai workers, their hands delicately selecting the finest of Finland’s natural bounty. Yet, behind this moment of apparent harmony and connection with nature, lie complex, stirring stories that have led Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs to make a bold move. In a surprising turn of events, the Ministry has announced the suspension of visa applications for wild-berry pickers hailing from Thailand, a decision extending its reach to encompass hopeful applicants from Cambodia and Myanmar as well.

This suspension, affecting Schengen visa issuances for the 2024 summer harvest, echoes through the consular districts reaching from the bustling streets of Bangkok to the tranquil landscapes of Cambodia and Myanmar. The reverberations of this decision mark a significant pause on a tradition that once saw vibrant communities converge in Finland’s forests, engaged in the timeless practice of berry picking.

The backstory to this decisive halt involves more than just the intricacies of international visa policies. It’s a narrative intertwined with aspirations, human rights concerns, and the Finnish dedication to ethical labor practices. Previously, visas for berry pickers operated under an assumption akin to a gentle handshake agreement: individuals would enter Finland, embrace the ‘Everyman’s Right’ to roam and forage, selling their gathered treasures freely. Yet, this seemingly simple arrangement has unveiled a layer of complexity involving employment contracts and, most troublingly, allegations of serious crimes.

As whispers of aggravated trafficking and exploitation grew louder, casting a shadow over the harvest season of 2023, the Finnish Ministry took a step back to reassess. The picture painted by the allegations was one of exploitation and vulnerability, involving hundreds of victims caught in a web far removed from the innocent gathering of nature’s offerings.

Addressing these grave concerns is not something Finland takes lightly. The country, known for its commitment to human dignity and rights, found itself at a crossroad, leading to the temporary suspension of berry picker visas. This significant step signifies Finland’s resolve to confront and undo the injustices marring the wild-berry picking sector.

Yet, as the forests await the return of those who traverse their land with care and respect, Finland is not standing still. With an eye on the future, specifically the 2025 harvest season, the government is diligently working on crafting a comprehensive, long-term solution. Spearheaded by a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and Pellervo Economic Research PTT, the aim is to ensure that the joyful tradition of berry picking can continue in a manner that honors both the land and its temporary stewards.

While the story of Thailand’s berry pickers in Finland might currently be at a pause, it’s far from over. With hope and determination, the Finnish government’s efforts to reshape this narrative into one that exemplifies ethical labor practices, respect for human rights, and mutual benefit for all parties involved is a journey we’re all keenly watching. This is not just about berries; it’s about nurturing a legacy of respect, dignity, and shared joy in the natural wonders that our world has to offer.


  1. NatureLover March 16, 2024

    This is a prime example of how globalization often comes at the expense of the vulnerable. It’s heartening to see Finland taking a stand, but the real question is, will other countries follow?

    • GlobalThinker March 16, 2024

      Interesting point, but isn’t it ironic that by trying to protect these workers, Finland is also cutting off a significant income source for them?

      • EcoWarrior March 16, 2024

        It’s about ethics, though. Can we really justify exploiting workers for economic gain? There has to be a balance between making a living and maintaining human dignity.

    • FinnPride March 16, 2024

      Exactly, Finland is showing true leadership! It’s about time other countries took human rights as seriously as we do.

      • NatureLover March 16, 2024

        Agreed, FinnPride. It’s a difficult decision but ultimately a step in the right direction toward more ethical practices worldwide.

  2. BerryPicker March 16, 2024

    As someone who’s been involved in berry picking, it’s not all black and white. Yes, there have been abuses, but many of us rely on this for our livelihood. This ban feels like a punishment for all because of a few bad actors.

    • Realist123 March 16, 2024

      There’s always another side to the story. It’s important to consider the economic impact on the workers’ families back home. What safety nets are Finland providing for them now?

      • BerryPicker March 16, 2024

        That’s my point, Realist123. There’s talk of crafting long-term solutions, but what happens in the meantime? People’s lives cannot just be put on ‘pause’.

    • SocJustice March 16, 2024

      But isn’t the ban a necessary step to prevent further exploitation? It’s crucial to address the root issues before they can return to picking berries under better conditions.

  3. MarketMan March 16, 2024

    What people often forget is the impact on the Finnish economy and local businesses. The berry industry is big, and this decision might do more harm than good in the long run.

    • LocalJoe March 16, 2024

      You’ve got a point, MarketMan. It’s going to affect prices and availability. Locals love their berries, and this could lead to unnecessary hikes in costs.

  4. GlobalWorker March 16, 2024

    This whole situation shines a spotlight on the importance of international labor laws. It shouldn’t take a crisis for countries to re-evaluate their policies and ensure they’re benefiting everyone involved.

    • LawandOrder March 16, 2024

      Absolutely, GlobalWorker. It’s a wake-up call for stronger regulations and more robust measures to protect labor rights in every country.

  5. Nomad March 16, 2024

    Maybe it’s time to rethink the ‘Everyman’s Right’ and how it’s exploited. It’s great on paper, but as we see, without proper oversight, it opens doors to abuses.

    • FinnCitizen March 16, 2024

      The Everyman’s Right is a cherished part of our culture. It’s not the principle that’s at fault; it’s the exploitation that needs to be addressed.

      • Nomad March 16, 2024

        I agree it’s a beautiful concept, FinnCitizen. The focus should definitely be on eliminating exploitation while preserving the freedoms the Right offers.

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