Thai Berry-pickers Toiling Away in Lapland

Thai workers are picking berries in Lapland under harsh conditions. Their work day starts at the break of dawn and continues late into the evening—and they get no free days to break the routine.

“We rise at three o’clock in the morning and return from the berry forests at nine o’clock at night,” says Boomturm Meesa.

Meesa came to Sodankylä from Khon Kaen in Thailand, which is located some 400 kilometres north of Bangkok. He has picked berries in Sweden before and heard from his friends that this work is also possible in Finland.

“There weren’t as many berries to pick in Sweden as here, so I came to Lapland,” he says.

Earning money for children’s studies

Meesa paid for the trip from his own money. It cost him altogether 1,500 euros. Meesa believes that the trip will pay itself off.

“And if I get more money, I’ll use it for my children’s education,” he says.

Meesa came to Finland because he wasn’t earning enough in Thailand. He believes that he can get better wages in Finland. In Thailand, he was getting 200 bhat, or about five euros, per day.

“Here I might earn up to 10,000 bhat a day, or about 250 euros,” he says.

Meesa admits that the work he’s doing in Lapland is very hard, but says he is used to it. He says he is satisfied with the conditions of this stay.

Thousands of others

Together with Meesa, 65 workers are staying in a former school in Sodankylä at the invitation of the company Korvatunturin Marja. The company has also hired a Thai interpreter and two Thai cooks to stay at the school.

There are several thousand foreign berry-pickers in northern Finland this year. Korvatunturin Marja alone employs 550 Thai and 200 Ukrainian workers.

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