Jobless look to Turkey for work

THESSALONIKI – Fifty years ago, Greek workers moved to Germany when Greece was unable to offer them an adequate standard of living. Now a new wave of emigration is beginning as many Greeks are looking for work abroad. The search is no longer confined to Western Europe but includes countries in our neighborhood, especially Turkey. Dozens of requests from unemployed Greeks are being sent to the Greek Consulate in Istanbul each week. Applications are also being made at the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Northern Greece in Thessaloniki. «This time last year, our consulate had not received one request for work. They started coming at the beginning of the year and have been building up gradually. The Greeks who approach us are, for the most part, couples and heads of families. They come from all parts of Greece. Most of them don’t have special skills, nor do they speak Turkish. But when they are looking for a job as a laborer in Turkey, where salaries start at 300 euros per month, they are either desperate or they don’t know anything about the country they want to emigrate to. Unemployment here is falling, but it is still close to 15 percent,» Yiannis Karkanis, head of the consulate’s commercial section, told Sunday’s Kathimerini. On the other hand, the young people who have approached the chamber in Thessaloniki are highly educated, with university degrees and postgraduate degrees and knowledge of the Turkish language. «This began in the last six months and continues on a daily basis [with at least one request each day], and as time passes it is building up,» the chamber’s president, Zano Apikyan, told Kathimerini. «What’s impressive is that quite a few Greeks speak Turkish. The Turkish departments of language schools are blooming,» he noted. The fact that more than 400 Greek companies – large and small – are active in Turkey is playing a key role in the growing interest shown by Greeks. «Every foreign investment in Turkey is welcome. They believe that this helps in the fight against unemployment,» Apikyan noted. Dimitris Sourvalis, a criminologist with four degrees, offers the viewpoint of someone who is interested in working in Turkey. «In the past year there has been a growing interest in Istanbul. The poor economic climate in our country and the lack of opportunities for young people with good CVs and specialized skills are creating a climate of despair. We can neither be absorbed by the academic establishment nor by private business. On the other hand, in Turkey we see that there is potential for us,» Sourvalis said. He is currently a postgraduate student at the University of Western Macedonia’s Balkan Studies Department, specializing in Turkey’s social, political and cultural structures. His choice has a practical side. Istanbul is the closest Balkan metropolis to northern Greece and it is a hub brimming with opportunities, drawing the interest of those who are looking for opportunities. Skills and flexibility key to employment Medea Tsartsidou, 29, has been trying to find a job in Greece for the past six years. She graduated from the Balkan Studies Department in Florina and has worked occasionally as a translator for businesses operating in Turkey. «The potential for finding a steady job in Greece is diminishing. Now, with the crisis, all hope is being lost,» she said. As the child of Russian-speaking ethnic Greeks, she chose a postgraduate degree in Turkish studies, believing that this would be the key to her finding work in Istanbul. Twenty-five-year-old Georgia Yiambouri knows Turkish and Serbian and has studied Turkey’s culture, history and language at the postgraduate level. «Theoretically, we have specialized in the Balkans but, in practice, in Greece there are no opportunities for work. Istanbul is a solution. I have been trying, sending my curriculum vitae to companies, to universities. I’ll even consider further studies there,» she said.