In 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and missions abroad provided consular services to a total of about 256,000 clients. In particular, the demand for consulting services continued to grow. Since the beginning of the year, more than 8,000 people have used the ministry’s 24/7 service.
As in previous years, the number of aid cases is highest in the countries that Finns prefer to travel to: Spain, Estonia, Germany, Thailand and Sweden. In 2022, the Consular Assistance Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs processed 652 cases of death abroad. There are 171 victims of crime abroad, 303 people who need help due to illness, and 184 people who have been arrested or detained. The Scandinavian countries are not included in the last number, as the authorities of the Scandinavian countries deal with such cases through direct communication with each other. Compared to 2021, this number has increased slightly.
In 2022, Finnish embassies around the world issued 23,297 new passports and 4,373 identity cards. Compared to the previous year, these numbers have also increased.
The biggest single consular crisis of the year came in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine and helped dozens of Finns leave the war zone. Last year, there were about 100 natural and man-made crises and emergencies to protect Finnish travelers. Internal conflict and chaos in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Iran have attracted particular attention. In addition to these, natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions kept the Ministry of Foreign Affairs busy.
Travel advisories remain popular
The Foreign Office publishes travel advisories for more than 150 countries around the world, and they remain the most read content on the Foreign Office website. In 2022, travel tips readers were most interested in tips from Spain, Italy, and Greece. Also interested in travel advice for Ukraine as the security situation is rapidly deteriorating.
Last year, about 178,000 tourists from 203 countries and regions submitted their travel declarations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Matkustusumilmoitus.fi service. Spain, Greece, Italy and Turkey received the most notifications. “A travel notification allows us to quickly contact travelers in a crisis if the security situation in the country requires it. We also recommend submitting a travel notification for permanent or temporary moves abroad,” said Outie Saarikoski, Director of Consular Assistance.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs assists travelers abroad
The tourism revival has again increased the problems and information needs of Finnish travelers abroad. Last year, one of the main reasons for contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ 24/7 service was questions and concerns about foreign passports. A traveler’s passport has suddenly expired, been lost or left at home. A passport is a very important document for travelers and is a must-have document to carry. It allows travelers to move from one country to another and prove their identity.
“It is not always enough to have a valid passport for the duration of the trip. Some countries’ authorities require passports to be valid for several months after travel. If you have multiple citizenships, local authorities may require you to show a passport from another country, especially when leaving the country. Take good care of your passport and keep it in a safe place. Never leave your passport or other valuables unattended while traveling, for example in a rental car. It’s easy to get ripped off there,” Saarikoski said.
In reality, getting a new passport or travel document abroad means a long journey from the resort to the capital. A longer stay can easily lead to additional hassles and expenses, such as travel to the mission, accommodation costs, purchasing a new return ticket, and passport fees.
The Consular Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends that you purchase travel insurance before you travel. This is especially important when something serious happens. The European Health Insurance Card entitles persons covered by health insurance in Finland to receive medically necessary healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU or EEA country, Switzerland, Great Britain or Northern Ireland. Additional charges apply to patients. However, this card does not cover medical transport to Finland. Medical bills can quickly add up to thousands of euros. International air ambulance flights to Finland cost tens of thousands of euros.
“We cannot overstate the importance of travel insurance. It makes things easier in difficult situations. If the European Health Insurance Card is not valid and the traveler does not have travel insurance, the cost will be borne by the traveler or his family,” said Saarikoski.
Requests for assistance should be sent to the mission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry’s 24/7 service (+358 9 160 55555, [email protected]). The 24/7 service handles emergency consular services outside of business hours for all Finnish missions abroad. The primary role of both the agents and the 24/7 service is to provide advice and help customers move forward with their issues on their own. When planning a trip abroad, or if something unpleasant happens during the trip, it is good to remember the services provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.
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