Travel doesn’t always go smoothly – the Ministry for Foreign Affairs helps travellers around the world
In 2023, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the missions abroad provided consular services to approximately 244,000 customers. The demand for advisory services remained high. Over the course of the year, the Ministry’s 24/7 service was contacted around 8,000 times in total.
As in previous years, the number of requests for assistance was highest in the countries where Finns are most likely to travel: Spain, Estonia, Germany, Thailand and Sweden. In 2023, the Unit for Consular Assistance at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was involved in managing 541 cases of death abroad. There were 51 victims of crime abroad, 214 requests for assistance due to an illness and 112 arrests or detainments. The latter number does not include detainments in the Nordic countries, as those cases are handled through direct contact between the countries’ authorities.
In 2023, Finnish missions around the world issued 20,369 new passports and 4,538 identity cards. The corresponding figures in 2022 were 23,297 and 4,373, respectively.
The biggest single consular crisis of the year arose when Hamas launched its attack on Israel at the beginning of October. Nearly 200 Finns were assisted in leaving Israel and the Palestinian territories following the attack. Most Finns left the area on a repatriation flight organised by Finland. In addition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs assisted people eligible for consular assistance in leaving Gaza for Egypt. The evacuations also involved cooperation with Sweden and other EU Member States.
Last year saw almost a hundred natural or man-made crises and emergencies of significance from the perspective of protecting Finnish travellers. The year was especially marked by internal conflicts and unrest, for example in Sudan, where the Ministry took part in a major international evacuation operation. In addition to these, natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions kept the Ministry for Foreign Affairs busy.
Travel advisories remain popular
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs publishes travel advisories for more than 150 countries, and they remain the most read content on the Ministry’s external website. In 2023, readers were most interested in the advisories for Spain, Greece, Italy and Thailand. Readers are also interested in travel advisories for countries in crisis.
Last year, nearly 190,000 people used the Matkustusilmoitus.fi service to notify the Ministry of their trips to a total of 203 countries or regions. The number of travel notifications increased by around 10 per cent from the previous year.
Spain, Greece, Italy and Thailand accounted for the highest number of notifications. Travel notifications enable the Ministry to quickly contact travellers in a crisis if the security situation in their destination so requires. It is also wise to submit a travel notification if you are moving abroad permanently or until further notice.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs helps travellers abroad
The problems faced by Finns abroad and the need for information while travelling have not decreased amid the increase in major or minor crises around the world. Expired, lost or forgotten passports are still the biggest single problem, as a trip cannot even begin without a valid passport or identity card.
It is not always enough to have a passport that is valid for the duration of the journey. In several countries, the authorities require the passport to be valid for several months after the journey. People with multiple nationalities may also be requested to present their other passports when leaving the country. Always keep your passport in a safe place while travelling, and do not leave it or other valuables in your car, for example.
Getting a new passport or identity card abroad may mean travelling a long way from your holiday destination to the capital of the country, which can result in additional accommodation costs and the need to purchase new return tickets and pay a passport fee.
The consular services of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs recommend always taking out travel insurance with sufficient coverage before travelling. The European Health Insurance Card entitles persons covered by health insurance in Finland to medically necessary health care during a temporary stay in another EU or EEA country, Switzerland, Great Britain or Northern Ireland. The patient will be charged a co-payment. However, the card does not cover medical transport to Finland. Hospital bills can easily climb to thousands of euros, especially in remote destinations, while ambulance flights to Finland cost tens of thousands of euros.
Before travelling, you should always read the travel advisory(Link to another website.) issued for your destination country (available in Finnish and Swedish) and submit a travel notification(Link to another website.).
Requests for assistance can be sent to the missions, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry’s 24/7 service (+358 9 160 55555, [email protected]). The 24/7 service is responsible for emergency consular services outside the office hours of all Finnish missions abroad. The primary duty of both the missions and the 24/7 service is to provide advice and help the customer handle their matter independently. When planning a trip abroad, or at the latest if something unfortunate happens during your trip, remember the services provided by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will stop using the Nettikonsuli Facebook page as one of its communication channels in January due to limited use. In the future, crisis communications will mainly take place via travel advisories, the websites of missions and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and social media channels. If you have submitted a travel notification, you will also be informed of any crises directly if the situation so requires.