The job search is no longer confined to Western Europe and now includes Turkey. Dozens of requests from jobless 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.
“At this time last year, our consulate had not received a single request for work. They started coming at the start of the year and have been building up gradually,” Yiannis Karkanis, head of the consulate’s commercial section, told Sunday’s Greek daily Kathimerini. “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 look 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 that they want to emigrate to.”
Young people who have approached the chamber in Thessaloniki are highly educated with university degrees and post-graduate 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,” 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.”
The fact that more than 400 Greek companies are active in Turkey is playing a key role in this growing interest. “Every foreign investment in Turkey is welcome. They believe that this helps in the fight against unemployment,” Apikyan said.
Istanbul brimming with opportunities
Dimitris Sourvalis is a criminologist and offered the viewpoint of someone who is interested in working in Turkey. “In the past year, there is growing interest in Istanbul. The bad economic climate in our country and the lack of opportunity for young people are creating a climate of despair,” he said. “This cannot be absorbed either by the academic establishment or by private business. On the other hand, in Turkey we see there is potential for us.”
Sourvalis is currently a post-graduate student in Thessaloniki’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.
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.
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 CV to companies, to universities. I’ll even consider further studies there,” she said.