16 January 2012

Australian mining boom lures record number of Greeks

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Australia's thriving economy, demand for skilled workers and relaxed working visa regulations has led to the most short term arrivals from Greece in a decade.

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The Australian mining industry's astonishing growth is attracting record numbers of Greek migrant workers

Greece's slumping economy and growing unemployment rates have meant that thousands of its citizens are leaving the country in droves for work and a better standard of life. And with a mining industry fuelled by Chinese demand, Australian visas are quickly becoming extremely popular in Greece.

With over 1.5% of the entire Australian population being of Greek origin, Australia has been home to one of the largest Greek communities outside of Greece since World War II. This proportion looks set to increase as, according the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the contrasting job opportunities in the two countries saw as many as 4,000 Greeks arrive on Australian shores in 2011, a 21% increase in just two years.

According to both Greek and German official statistics, the mass Greek exodus in the wake of its economic collapse had originally been focussed on Germany in the first half of 2011. However, with the Australian immigration authorities relaxing the requirements needed to apply for an Australian working visa and their intention to attract over 100,000 skilled migrants in the next year, the surge in short term arrivals from Greece is only likely to increase.

Lazarus Karasavvidis, managing director of recruitment firm Skillup Australia predicted that Australia can expect as many 25,000 Greeks in the next couple of years and he himself as had a plethora of calls from Greek students and professionals seeking advice on how to secure work in Australia.

These sentiments have been echoed by the general secretary of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne, Costas Markos who said "I've been in this job for 17 years and in the first 16 years, I've seen maybe two people ask questions about moving to Australia. In the last six months, I've seen 200 or 300 people comin asking how they can move here".

With truck drivers in Western Australia's mines earning over £130,000 a year, few can blame desperate Greeks for wanting to make the move.

However, there could be a downside to the mass migration as Greeks will have to compete with migrants from other struggling European economies; the number of Australian visa holders from the UK and Ireland have risen by 43% and 68% respectively in the six months to November 2011.

Other factors which experts have warned could be affected by Greek migration to Australia include the already floundering Greek economy which, if it begins to show signs of recovery within the next two years, could find the majority of its skilled workforce absent, having fled for better opportunities.


The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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