by Yannis Pleios
The last few years in Greece have been some of the most difficult in recent history; the never ending economic crisis, the austerity measures and the difficult relation with EU institutions have shaped public debate on the last decade.
With new elections just a step away, the country is divided on wether the measures adopted by ruling party SYRIZA helped or not the country to leave the crisis behind but all those adversities, without doubts, convinced many Greeks to leave the country emigrating abroad to Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as the most popular destinations in Europe.
In Holland, according to the National Statistics Service (CBS) despite a decline of 4.5% -for the first time since 2006- of arrivals, migrants number from southern Europe continued to grow as a result of the economic crisis. Recently an increased turnout of Greeks has been observed by the Consular Office: numbers from the Federation of Greek Communities in the Netherlands [ΣΕΕΚΟ] show a growing migratory flows, as from 16,000 Greeks before 2010 this figure is now 24,000, not including 2,500 students.
Indeed, Greece, Spain and Italy star in the immigration stream to the Netherlands: from the three countries of the European South, the number of arrivals has risen steadily since 2008. As far as Greece is concerned, by the year Lehman Brothers collapsed, the influx ranged between 800 people in 2008 peaking a decade later to 2,600 immigrants, bringing the total to a record number of 9,100.
Why The Netherlands? “The life here is good. The salary here is also good compared to Greece”, says to 31mag.nl Nadia Igniatovic, founder of IamGreek.nl a popular website for the Greek diaspora in NL: “About 45.000 have re-settled in the Netherlands due to the economic crisis. But migrating here is indeed very difficult and expensive.” According to Nikola things got tougher in the last few years: “Years ago relocating was easier. Now everything is more expensive and there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with while renting a home or a room. I also experienced a growing hostility toward Greeks”, says Nikolas, who has been living in the Netherlands for 8 years.
Where do Greeks in The Netherlands work? According to Nadia, most of the new wave is employed in the IT sector as web developers and web designers: “Greeks in NL mostly work in the IT sector as web developers, web designers etc. HORECA, Management & Marketing, hospitals as nurses and doctors are also popular fields.”
Moving to The Netherlands is hard but good working conditions for skilled labour make it attractive for many, although this latter condition is a dangerous element for a country as it’s a boosting factor for “brain drain”: “In Greece, the fear of a life without a future, is turning many people away. In fact, more than 120,000 Greek scientists and specialists have left Greece. At the end of 2010, 10% of the country’s scientific potential – some 120,000 people – were living abroad.” Louis Labrianidis is a Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Thessaloniki,““this scientific potential is very important for a country’s development, as we will not be able to grow further by losing it. There are professors at university who cannot afford to live in the country anymore and after been left without a paying for years chose to relocate abroad to support their family. This is a very bad picture of the currentw trend in Greek society.”
Losing young generations is the the main concern of those countries which had to deal with financial crisis. Twenty-two year’s old Fotis, studies international relations at UvA University in Amsterdam. “The Netherlands is not as popular for my co-citizens as UK and Germany where a network and opportunities are wider and easier to catch”, he says. Fotis shares the drama of many while looking for an accommodation: “I was searching for somewhere to stay for 1.5 months and I lived from hotel to hotel spending around 1.200 euros”. He is not a fan of lifestyle in The Netherlands that he considers “miserable and boring” but at the same time he doesn’t see for himself a future in Greece.
“Life in NL from an expat’s view has pros and cons”, Nikola says “Economy is stable and salary is good but Greeks might find an hard to deal with the culture gap here”. Despite the cons, pros convinced the well settled Nikola that his future will be in The Netherlands: “I don’t have plans to move back.The idea of Greece to overcome the crisis seems utopical to me. But on top I have my own business here.”, he concludes.