IOM Finland Opens Dialogue on Preventing Exploitation of Seasonal Agricultural Workers

Positive approach. IOM Finland brought together interested parties to explore partnerships to ensure the rights of seasonal migrant workers. © IOM

Helsinki – In summer, the woods and fields in Finland are so ripe with wild forest berries that seasonal migrant workers are needed for the harvest. IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is working with a multitude of interested parties in Finland to ensure that the rights of agricultural migrant workers are respected. On Monday (12/02) the organization brought the stakeholders together to find solutions and ways forward.

Representatives from unions and employer unions, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), the retail chains and the Regional State Administrative Agencies joined in the round table. The discussion focused on practical measures for preventing exploitation of seasonal migrant workers in agriculture, berry picking and fruit gardens.

“Many of the farms or employers are small family businesses, who do not have the resources to read long leaflets or instructions,” said Miika Ilomäki, executive director of the Fruit and Berry Farmers Union of Finland. “We need easy materials.”

IOM Finland has recognized this and already last summer produced a two-page-leaflet, directed at those employing berry and fruit pickers, with tips on how to recognize signs of human trafficking in their workers. It has raised a lot of interest at the level of the national unions and in the retail sector.

The number of seasonal workers coming to pick forest berries has hovered around 3,500 for many years, but the numbers dropped last year. Most of these workers come from Thailand. There have been some cases of human trafficking in the berry sector – in January, for instance, a man was sentenced to jail for trafficking 26 Thai berry pickers.

The forest berry industry has been taking steps to prevent exploitation and has introduced a voluntary contract to safeguard the migrants’ rights. The contract has been signed by most of the employers in the industry.

The Finnish law on seasonal migrant workers changed at the beginning of the year because of EU directives. The government agencies are expecting an influx of applications before summer. The number of seasonal migrant workers is usually around 6,000-7,000 yearly. These categories of migrant workers stay in the country for more than three months, and they need work contracts and temporary residence permits.

“We have received 200 applications so far,” said Ansa Mäntysola, Inspector at the Finnish Immigration Service.

Since the new law came in to force at the beginning of the year, there has been a clear rise in the number of recruitment agencies in Ukraine offering services to seasonal migrant workers to Finland. Ukraine is the country of origin for most seasonal agricultural migrant workers coming to Finland.

“The recruitment is the most vulnerable part of the process,” said Hannah Plumb, from the Labour and Human Development Department from IOM Headquarters. “Recruit as directly as you can.” Plumb presented IOM’s international initiatives on ethical recruitment (IRIS) and on Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST) at the meeting.

Leaflet on preventing exploitation of seasonal migrant workers (in Finnish):

IOM’s International Recruitment Integrity System

IOM's Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST)

Present regulations on working in Finland:

For more information please contact: Jaana Sipilä at IOM Finland, Tel: +358 9 684 11522 Email: