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Uncertainty over Thai workers despite Finland lifting restrictions

Last summer, Thai authorities had limited the number of citizens who can apply for visas to work as berry pickers in Finland.

thaipoimija polarica marjastus Samai Lekan thaimaalainen marjanpoimija
The berry pickers from Thailand should ideally be in Finland within the next 10–12 days. Image: Pia Tuukkanen / Yle

Seasonal workers from Thailand who were to arrive in Finland in time for the berry picking season are still awaiting a decision on their travel plans.

Finland's government had announced in a statement on Wednesday that Thai berry pickers are exempt from travel restrictions and will be allowed to enter the country if they have an invitation from a Finnish employer.

"The entry of berry pickers from Thailand will be permitted according to the country quota previously allocated to Finland. The Thai authorities announced earlier that Finland’s quota is 3,000 pickers," the statement read.

However, owners of berry processing companies in Finland are worried that Thai authorities may not permit workers to travel to Finland.

Jukka Kristo, CEO of berry processor Polarica told Yle he has been negotiating with the Thai authorities for months, and is awaiting for a final decision to be announced on Friday.

"The situation seems hopeless. We still have to negotiate with them and try to find a solution," Kristo said.

Pickers to be quarantined at a "Corona hotel"

According to Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, Thailand has reviewed its arrangement and has placed a condition that the berry pickers must be provided with health care and sufficiently spacious accommodation.

Last summer, authorities in Thailand had limited the number of Thai citizens who can apply for visas to work as berry pickers in Finland, despite a request from Finland's Ministry of Employment and the Economy for additional workers. The 2018 conviction of a berry firm owner for trafficking 26 Thais into Finland may have influenced the Thai authorities' decision to refuse the ministry's request.

Kristo understands that the authorities want to keep citizens safe and said he has put a lot of effort into inviting the Thai berry pickers despite complications caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

"We have delivered huge amounts of documents, paperwork, permits and promises. The pickers will be tested on arrival and departure. They will be quarantined for two weeks in a state-approved corona hotel where doctors are on-site at all times," Kristo said.

The pickers should ideally be in Finland within the next 10–12 days — as this summer's crop of cloudberries will be ready for collection in southern Lapland as early as next week, Kristo added.

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