Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Consular services need increases as more Finns travel

17 Jan 2019, 20:44 ( 1 Month ago)

DF-Report
Helsinki Airport. Press Release Photo by Finavia.

The demand for consular services provided by Finland's missions abroad and the Foreign Ministry is growing at a steady pace,said the government in an official press release.

Finns are travelling to all corners of the world. In 2018, over 241,000 Finns registered at matkustustilmoitus.fi, which means that they submitted their travel plans and contact details to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Those who had submitted their travel details received information and instructions from the Foreign Ministry in 92 crisis situations, most of which were related to natural disasters.

Finland's missions abroad are primarily responsible for giving advice and for helping customers handle matters independently. The missions also provide assistance to Finnish nationals in distress abroad. In 2018, consular assistance was given in over 75,200 cases, up from 67,400 recorded in 2017.

In most cases, providing advice helped resolve the problem; however, in many cases the Foreign Ministry or the mission had to deal with the matter in one way or other. The Ministry's 24/7 Service Centre receives approximately 100 calls every week. The Service Centre handles requests for consular assistance made outside the office hours of all Finland's missions abroad.

The most common reasons for requesting assistance continue to be expiry or loss of a passport or other travel document problems. For many countries, the passport must be valid for six months after the date of travel. In 2018, the number of passports issued by Finland's missions rose to 17,986 (the corresponding figure in 2017 was 18,795).  In 2018, the missions issued 1,819 identity cards (1,875 in 2017).

The Ministry is preparing an amendment to the Decree of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Fees for Services Produced by the Foreign Service. The proposed amendment would enable joint issuance of a passport and an ID card by Finnish missions aboard and a discount on the price of the ID card for the customer. This reform would for its part make it easier for expatriate Finns to use electronic services in cases where strong electronic identification is required.

In 2018, the missions and the Ministry received reports of 572 deaths abroad. The missions provided help to 427 persons who had fallen ill or been in an accident abroad. The missions helped 147 travellers, who had become victims of crime and 273 Finns who had been arrested or imprisoned abroad. The biggest number of requests for assistance was made in Spain (676), followed by Estonia (196), Thailand (128), Sweden (123) and Germany (101).

Matkustusilmoitus.fi is a service where people can submit their travel details and contact information abroad so that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs can contact them in case of an emergency or crisis. Last year, 92 such emergencies occurred in different parts of the world after which the Ministry sent information and instructions to people who had submitted their travel details and were in affected areas. The majority of these were related to natural disasters (70), but messages were sent also in connection with terrorist attacks and accidents related to means of transport.

On the Foreign Ministry's website, the most frequently visited content page is the travel advice bulletins, which provide information of, for example, countries' security situation. Travel advice bulletins are published on over 150 countries.

The Foreign Ministry recommends that all Finns travelling abroad take out a comprehensive travel insurance and that they get familiar with the terms and conditions of their insurance policy in advance.