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Bulgarian berry pickers left in forest without food or water

Police suspect a group of Bulgarians discovered in a Savo forest were the victims of human traffickers. They had slept outdoors for three days without food, water or adequate shelter after being brought to backwoods Finland to pick lingonberries.

On puolukka-aika
On puolukka-aika. Image: Antti M. J. Lahtinen

A group of Bulgarian berry pickers has been rescued after spending three nights in the open after their contact in Finland apparently abandoned them. Police said they were extremely thirsty when they finally got help, but reluctant to divulge details of the people who’d brought them to Finland.

After their contact returned to collect the berries they’d picked, he abandoned them there apparently because he was not satisfied with the amount they’d picked. They had little food or water, and only one small tent. After being left in the woods they had mainly eaten lingonberries they’d picked themselves.

On their third night, some of the group set out to seek help from a house located around 5km away. After the householders gave them food and water, they and the remaining pickers were taken to the police station.

The 13 pickers had come to Finland by bus via Tallinn, before continuing their journey by car to Heinävesi, Savo.

Police say the case bears the hallmarks of human trafficking, but the pickers themselves are reluctant to divulge any information beyond their desire to return to Bulgaria. They have been taken to Helsinki where the Bulgarian embassy is providing consular assistance.

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