Govt working to revoke berry-picking ban

Govt working to revoke berry-picking ban

Thai workers pick wild berries in a forest. (File photo: Ministry of Labour)
Thai workers pick wild berries in a forest. (File photo: Ministry of Labour)

The Labour Ministry says it will address the issue relating to the suspension of visa applications for Thais seeking wild-berry picking jobs in Finland, saying it aims to have measures in place by the 2025 harvest season.

Somchai Morakotsriwan, the director-general of the Department of Employment, said on Sunday the ministry is working closely with state agencies, including those from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The move follows a decision by Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to suspend the acceptance of wild-berry pickers' visa applications from Thais for the summer 2024 harvest season due to the risks of exploitation and trafficking.

Mr Somchai said the move is temporary but the Labour Ministry will devise solutions to the problem.

Initially, a recruitment programme for berry picking jobs in Finland and Sweden will be halted until regulations are improved to better safeguard workers' rights.

In the long term, the ministry will propose that the governments of both countries initiate talks on labour imports and exports.

Additionally, laws and regulations will be amended to penalise employers and coordinators of trafficking and exploitation of workers.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Sunday the government is negotiating a mutual visa exemption programme with European countries.

Following tightened guidelines in February 2023, the ministry assessed Schengen visa conditions after the 2023 harvest season, amid allegations of serious crimes during that period.

Previously, visas for wild-berry picking were issued assuming that pickers enter the country for a purpose comparable to tourism, collect wild berries freely under the right of public access ("Everyman's Right"), and sell the natural products they have harvested to a party of their choice.

However, the Foreign Ministry said most pickers had entered into employment contracts.

Given the risks of exploitation and trafficking, the ministry said it must find another long-term solution by the 2025 season.

The suspension of visa applications for berry pickers extends to applicants in the Embassy of Finland's consular district in Bangkok, which covers Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Consequently, Schengen visas will not be granted to wild-berry pickers from these countries for the summer 2024 harvest season.

A working group will assess regulatory options in spring 2024 and visa applications other than those for berry picking will be processed as normal.

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (16)