OREANDA-NEWS. In 2016, the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic and consular missions abroad handled about 55,000 requests for consular service and consular assistance.  A total of 359 persons responded to the consular and travel services survey, commissioned by the Ministry. Slightly over 60 per cent of all respondents were women, and the respondents represented mainly ages between 25 and 64.

The respondents were fairly or very satisfied with for instance the following matters: ease of being in contact; professional, objective and friendly service; speed of service; clear instructions; and availability of service staff. Based on the survey, the services should be developed across the organisation to create a harmonised services experience. The Ministry and its missions abroad will lay an emphasis on the provision of uniform quality and friendly and approachable service.

The respondents’ overall assessment of the use of the services on the scale of 1 to 5 averaged 3.8, and 66 per cent of them were very or fairly satisfied with the service experience.  The respondents were also given an opportunity to assess the Foreign Ministry’s consular and travel safety services by giving them a mark between 4 and 10. The average mark on this scale was 8.1, which can be considered a good result.

The three most central reasons to contact the Ministry for Foreign Affairs or a mission of Finland abroad, cited by the respondents, were:

  • applying for a passport (36.7 per cent of the respondents)

  • travel safety/travel notification (31.2 per cent of the respondents) and

  • legalisation of documents/notarial services (13.8 per cent of the respondents).

The Foreign Ministry’s 24/7 Crisis Services responds to phone calls round the clock

Awareness of the recommendations of the four Ts (travel notification, travel advice, travel documents, and travel insurance) of the Foreign Ministry’s travel safety services was also surveyed. A total of 68.7 per cent of all respondents told that they submit details of their travel arrangements at matkustusilmoitus.fi prior to travelling abroad.  Nearly as many, that is, 66.0 per cent of the respondents read the Ministry’s travel advice related to their country of destination.

Almost half of the respondents (47.8 per cent) informed that they are usually independent travellers, and nearly half of the respondents (41.3 per cent) said that they live abroad.

In 2015 and 2016, all Finnish missions’ out-of-hours services were gradually transferred to the Ministry in Helsinki. The Ministry’s 24/7 Crisis Services is in preparedness round the clock and last year, several thousands of phone calls were received. However, only 5.2 per cent (18 respondents) of all those who took part in this survey, had contacted the Foreign Ministry’s 24/7 Crisis Services. The Foreign Ministry aims to enhance awareness of its 24/7 Crisis Services

The survey also confirmed the impression that there are still many services, in which the citizens mistakenly consider that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is a competent authority, such as entry regulations in their country of destination. Information about visas, residence permits, work permits, and customs regulations must be requested from the authorities of the country of destination or from the embassy of the country in question in Finland.