Berry Picking – the Darker Side

In July a man full of hope arrived in Finland. The Thai citizen planned to spend the summer picking berries in the swamps and forests of Finnish Lapland.
     
The cloudberry crop looked good. In the autumn he would return home, having earned a handsome amount of money.
     
Things went differently. The 38-year-old man disappeared in Salla and was found a couple of weeks later dead in the forest. His body apparently bore damage caused by animals, which could have been inflicted after his death.
     
The investigation into the death continues. No crime is believed to be involved, and the man probably would have wanted to continue his life.
    
The use of Thai berry pickers has been known for years to be something akin to slave labour and human trafficking, but this is still the first actual fatality. It is therefore a sad milestone in the history of Finnish greed.
     
Most of the berry pickers are poor residents of rural areas, and many of them are illiterate. Even a small additional income is significant for them. However, there is no guarantee of success, and many are likely to return home in even greater distress than before.
    
The Thai pickers pay for everything themselves: a fee to the agent who recruited them, the visa, the flight tickets, travel insurance, lodging, food, phone calls, and transport. They even have to pay for the buckets and the picking devices.
     
In 2008, when the wild berry crop was disappointing, more than half returned home owing money.
     
But still, it is allowed to go on.
    
When you invite a guest, he needs to be taken care of.
     
Thai pickers are invited to Finland by a handful of companies. The pickers get about two hours of training, and then they are sent into the forest.
     
If a picker were to have an employment contract with the company that signed the visa invitation, the work would have to take place under the supervision of the employer. Now the responsibility is with the pickers themselves. If they collapse in an arctic wilderness far from home, it’s their own fault.
    
In Sweden, the pickers have employment contracts, but even there they are blatantly exploited. This is evidenced by riots that broke out this summer. It is the lot of the impoverished to be poor.
     
When will shops start selling fair trade berries from Finland?

     

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