By Thanasis Gavos – London
A frequent theme of the international reports on the crisis in Greece has been the steady flow of emigrants to traditional and not so traditional destinations. Recently one particular such destination has caught the eye of the observers.
Figures show that over the last couple of years around a thousand Greeks have made a new home for themselves out of Istanbul. Constantinople has always been a special place to be for the Greeks, but it’s not pleasure or memories that are attracting them to the vast city this time.
A BBC report highlighted how Turkey is considered by recession-stricken Greeks as a refuge with huge potential and generous opportunities to continue or build their career. Turkish media have also been reporting on the phenomenon, with Turkey being described as “a door of hope for the neighbours.”
Speaking to international media the President of the Turkish-Greek Business Council Tevfik Bilgen said that Greeks arriving have started working in almost all sectors of the economy. Many reports have focused on the increasing number of Greek academics, many of whom actually have family roots on the other side of the Evros border, filling up places in Turkish universities.
One can find new Greek shops and restaurants springing up in neighbourhoods like Bebek and Pera, while lots of Greek chefs try their luck in a cuisine they are already quite familiar with. Similarly, Greek musicians mix their knowledge with that of fellow artists, discovering their common musical background and appreciating each other’s distinctive treads. Hotels and tourism services in big Turkish cities attract high quality Greek personnel, while senior and junior executives from Greece have started “invading” banks and financial institutions in Istanbul. Physicians have also begun offering their services in private clinics.
In the midst of high political and social tensions and in a more reserved than recent years yet still exciting economic climate, Turkey is proving to be a welcoming new home for tired Greeks. The trend seems bound to increase as long as the ‘real economy’ in their country does not follow the improving fiscal figures. High unemployment and increased poverty will keep pushing Greeks away – to the UK, to Germany, to the USA as it has happened in the past, but also in developing, dynamic markets, such as the Emirates and Turkey.
The new Greek Constantinople is a sign of the times, part of a new Greece growing abroad in the era of crisis and globalisation.