NEWS

From unskilled workers, many immigrants have risen to become their own boss in a foreign land

Ilias, Elpiniki and Christos from Albania are typical of the thousands of economic immigrants who have arrived in Greece since 1991 dreaming of a better life, like immigrants anywhere else in the world. Working hard at jobs no one else will do and getting ahead, many of them have gone from being unskilled workers to employers, making homes for themselves and achieving the «Greek dream.» Unlike the unfortunate Afghans and Pakistanis of Arta, reported recently in Kathimerini, victims of exploitation and a blight on our own image as a country, these economic immigrants are, according to technocrats, an important cog in the wheel of the engine driving the Greek economy. Their arrival in the Greek provinces in the early 1990s acted as a counterweight to the outflow of Greek farm workers to the cities and the tourism industry. University studies show that today, when salaried employment is the rule on farms, one in four farm laborers is an economic immigrant, and two-thirds of Greek farmers employ foreign workers. The Greek state, aware of the contribution of economic immigrants, has signed bilateral accords with Albania and Bulgaria allowing an influx of seasonal workers every year. In the region of Central Macedonia alone, there were 23,000 applications from farmers and livestock breeders for laborers for 2008. About 20,000 of these jobs are expected to be filled. In other words, demand is higher than supply. According to estimates, the total number of immigrants – legal and otherwise – working in agriculture and livestock breeding comes to about 200,000.