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By Mike Tzounis

The tragic economic situation of Greece deeply affects Melbourne as the Victorian capital welcomes growing numbers of Greek migrants and sees its population rise at an impressive rate.

It is estimated that every week, almost 100 Greeks land in Australia’s airports on temporary visas, hoping to secure a better future Down Under, as things in Europe have gone south and do not seem to be any close to improving.

According to unconfirmed data from Immigration, about 3000 Greeks have arrived in Melbourne the past year in order to look for job opportunities with a view to obtaining permanent visas and Australian citizenship.

Some of them are lucky enough to find sponsors who employ them and guarantee them a permanent visa to Australia, but others, not so lucky, are forced to go back home empty-handed after their visas expire.

There are also people who come to Australia on tourist visas but fail to provide enough satisfactory evidence of being genuine tourists and get sent back home.

In many cases, tourists did not have enough funds to pay for their stay in Australia and even had their tickets bought by others, which caused Immigration to send them back to Greece in the next available flight.

Most Greeks get student visas in order to have working rights, even part-time, so as to make some money and help their families back home.

They are lucky enough to be in Australia, where wages are a lot better than European ones, so they can make some money and survive the financial crisis.

It may be surprising, but the reality is that some Greeks get student visas purely to be able to work rather than get a University or TAFE degree from an Australian institution.

Konstantinos Tsigkris is one of the few exceptions. Coming from Athens and with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a vast experience as a salesman for Coca-Cola, he is currently on his way to obtaining his MBA from Victoria University.

He sees coming to Australia as a challenge and wants to broaden his horizons.

The crisis, however, also affects Greeks who already have an Australian passport. Stratos Kotsis, born in Melbourne, spent most of his life in Thessaloniki, Greece, before deciding to come back to Australia in order to enjoy a better standard of living.

Stratos has been a chef for about four years but lack of employment and opportunities forced him to leave Greece, which he loves, and migrate permanently to Australia.

The Australian government has stated its intention to help and is currently in discussions with the Greek government for a working tourist visa agreement.

Last October, the Department of Immigration in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Embassy in Greece organised a seminar in Athens, where employers from Australia had the opportunity to speak with Greeks interested in coming Down Under to work and informed them of all the details of living and working in Australia.

Many Greeks attended the seminar held at the Australian Embassy in Athens last October (Photo: Google)

It is worth noting that in 2005, the Australian government took the initiative and offered Greece the opportunity to sign the agreement, only to be rejected by then Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis.

It is the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria that brought the subject back to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s agenda last year and talks between the two governments have been progressing well during the past weeks.

The GOCMV also tries to help Greeks arriving in Melbourne by providing assistance with visa applications, job opportunities and guidance.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, shaking hands with the President of the GOCMV, Bill Papastergiadis during the meeting with the GOCMV board (Photo:

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