Scene at a record-breaking sirtaki dance in Melbourne, Australia, 18 July 2004.

The Greek exodus to Australia

For young Europeans from crisis stricken states, booming Australia has become a new land of opportunity. This is especially true for a new generation of Greek graduates, joining the largest expatriate Greek community in the world.

Published on 22 December 2011 at 15:22
Scene at a record-breaking sirtaki dance in Melbourne, Australia, 18 July 2004.

For several months a stream of mostly young men and women, fresh off the plane from Greece, has been knocking at the doors of a large building on Lonsdale Street in the heart of Melbourne. The 1940s block houses the headquarters of Australia's biggest Greek community. In scenes reminiscent of the great gold rush at the turn of the 20th century, the men and women have travelled to the other side of the world in search of a better life. Unlike Greeks of old, however, these new émigrés are noticeably accomplished, with hard-earned degrees won in some of the toughest fields.

"They're all university graduates, engineers, architects, mechanics, teachers, bankers who will do anything for work," says Bill Papastergiades, the community's lawyer president. "It's desperate stuff. We're all aghast. Often they'll just turn up with a bag. Their stories are heartbreaking and on every plane there are more," he told the Guardian in a telephone interview. "A lot come here and are literally lost. We've taken to putting them in houses, five or six of them at a time, here in the centre."

The exodus is just one part of the human drama being played out in Greece where Europe's debt crisis began. Since June, Melbourne community leaders say they have been deluged with thousands of letters, emails and telephone calls from Greeks desperate to migrate to a country that, safeguarded from global market turbulence, is now seen as the land of unparalleled opportunity.

This year alone, 2,500 Greek citizens have moved to Australia although officials in Athens say another 40,000 have also "expressed interest" in initiating the arduous process to settle there. An 800-seat Australian government "skills expo" held in the Greek capital in October attracted some 13,000 applicants. Read full article in The Guardian...

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Eurozone crisis

Austerity Ireland and Portugal - emigration black spots

Introducing a series on emigration during the crisis, the Guardian writes

Since its conception, the European Union has been a haven for those seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty in other parts of the world. But as the EU faces what Angela Merkel has called its toughest hour since the second world war, the tables appear to be turning. A new stream of migrants is leaving the continent. It threatens to become a torrent if the debt crisis continues to worsen.

Most affected are Ireland, Greece and Portugal, all of which have been subject to EU/IMF bailouts as well as draconian austerity budgets in the last two years.

In Ireland, where 14.5% of the population are jobless, emigration has climbed steadily since 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the bottom fell out of the Irish housing market. In the 12 months to April this year, 40,200 Irish passport-holders left, up from 27,700 the previous year, according to the central statistics office.

At least 10,000 Portuguese have left for former colony Angola, as well as to Mozambique and Brazil. According to Brazilian government figures, the number of Portuguese in the country has jumped from 276,000 in 2010 to nearly 330,000.

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