Increasing number of Finns fall victims of crime abroad
More and more Finnish tourists end up victims of a crime when travelling abroad. The number of incidents that have come to light at the Finnish embassies and consulates has increased by a third in the past two years.
Last year, 1,691 Finns in all sought help from the Finnish embassies and consulates after having fallen victims to a crime abroad. Of these, 1,522 had been robbed, and 77 had experienced physical violence. A third of the incidents took place in Spain.
Director Pasi Tuominen of the Unit for Consular Services at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs considers increased travelling as the main reason for the rising figures. According to the Statistics Finland preliminary data, the Finns carried out 6.4 million journeys abroad last year.
The number of Finns arrested and imprisoned abroad, in turn, has dropped by nearly a third in the past two years. Last year the Finnish representations took care of the affairs of 150 arrested or imprisoned Finns.
In mid-March, outside the Nordic Countries, there were 22 Finns either arrested, in pre-trial detention, imprisoned, or waiting for deportation.
About a third of the cases are drug-related.
The consular routines have nearly doubled in the embassies in the last two years. The most typical crime-related affairs are the disappearance or theft of money and passport.
Tuominen emphasises that the best way to avoid inconvenience is to get a travel insurance policy and find out what it covers. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs travel bulletins would be worth studying as well.
“And keeping the consumption of alcohol at a moderate level also decreases the risk of one's getting into trouble.”
In Thailand, the recent homicides of foreign visitors have tarnished the country’s reputation as a safe holiday destination.
Krerkpan Roekchamnong, from the country’s embassy in Helsinki believes that the news of the killings will hamper the tourism industry.
“We do our best to restore the faith in tourism in Thailand. Tourists fall victims of serious crimes all over the world.”
In parts of Thailand a tourism police operates, Roekchamnong reports. At tourist information points, travellers are advised of doings to be avoided while in Thailand.
”The killings are not a daily topic of conversation among the hotel guests”, explains Tea Piromnarg from the Hilton Hotel in Phuket.
Personally she is concerned, for not all tourists know how to look after themselves.
“We emphasise to our clients where to go and at what time. If they want to go to Patong Beach, it is fine, but we urge them to come back before midnight.”
According to the Finnish Ambassador to Thailand, Lars Backström, the country can still be considered safe. In relation to the number of visitors, capital crimes are rare.
The appearance of the reduced figures for crimes committed abroad by Finns comes at a slightly awkward moment: international press agencies have had a field-day in the last 24 hours with the exploits of a wayward Finnish tourist on Easter Island.
His attempts to break off a souvenir piece of the ear of one of the island's famous Moai statues could end in a lengthy prison sentence from the Chilean authorities, and will doubtless have caused additional work for Finnish consular staff in Santiago.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish man stabbed to death in Pattaya, Thailand (26.3.2008)
Finnish tourist detained after vandalising statue on Easter Island (26.3.2008)