Facing an uncertain economic future at home, more Greeks are making the 20-hour trip to Australia in search of work.
Short-term arrivals of Greek citizens are up 21% to about 4,000 people in the six months ended Nov. 30, compared with the period two years ago, according to Australia's statistics bureau. The latest number marks the biggest half-year inflow in that period in a decade.
Unlike Greece, with its 17% unemployment rate, Australia's economy is thriving. A mining boom fueled by demand from China has led to a shortage of skilled workers and a 5% jobless rate.
The Australian government is easing work-permit requirements to attract about 125,000 skilled immigrants over the next year to fill gaps in the current work force. Even truck drivers in Western Australia's remote mines are earning annual salaries of US$200,000.
Australia is a natural destination for Greeks following a wave of emigration there after World War II. Australians of Greek origin now account for about 360,000 out of a total population of 22 million. It is the fourth-largest Greek community outside Greece after the U.S., Cyprus and the U.K., according to the 2006 census.
The flow of Greeks to Australia isn't yet reflected in official immigration statistics; the primary destination for those leaving Greece was Germany for the first half of 2011, according to the German federal statistic bureau and Greek government officials. But the surge in short-term arrivals signals a likely increase in emigrants in the future, experts say.
In September, Australia's embassy in Athens hosted a jobs fair for which more than 10,000 people vied for 800 slots to the event.
Lazarus Karasavvidis, the 35-year-old managing director of international recruitment and training firm Skillup Australia in Melbourne, said he has been fielding a flood of calls from students and professionals in Greece seeking information on how to get work in Australia. He estimated that as many as 25,000 Greeks will come to Australia in the next couple of years.
Natalie Gasparis, 21, has been in Australia since October and is working as a chef in Sydney's Hellenic Restaurant, where she earns 50,000 Australian dollars (US$51,500) a year, just under the national average wage.
Back in Greece, there was 'no longer anything to live for,' said Ms. Gasparis, who comes from the island of Kefalonia, the idyllic setting for Louis de Bernières's novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin.' 'We had nothing.'
Many Greeks who arrive in Australia are turning to Costas Markos, general secretary of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne. The capital of Victoria state is home to the world's third-largest Greek-speaking urban community, behind Athens and Thessaloniki, according to Victoria's state government.
'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 come in asking how they can move here,' said Mr. Markos.
But Greeks coming to Australia in search of work and a better life will have to compete with a growing throng of other crisis-hit Europeans.
Between June 30 and Nov. 30, long-term visa holders from the U.K. jumped 43% to 7,160. Those from Ireland surged 68% over the period to 2,610.
墨尔本国际招聘和培训公司Skillup Australia的董事总经理、现年35岁的卡拉萨维迪斯（Lazarus Karasavvidis）说，希腊学生和专业人士的电话如潮水般涌来，纷纷询问如何在澳大利亚找到工作。他估计未来几年将有多达2.5万希腊人来到澳大利亚。
现年21岁的加斯帕里斯（Natalie Gasparis）去年10月来到澳洲，目前在悉尼的希腊餐厅（Hellenic Restaurant）当厨师。她的年薪为5万澳元（约合5.15万美元），略低于澳大利亚全国平均工资水平。
加斯帕里斯说，希腊已经没有任何可以维持生计的出路。她来自凯法利尼亚岛（Kefalonia），德•贝尔尼埃（Louis de Bernieres）的小说《科雷利上尉的曼陀林》（Captain Corelli's Mandolin）的就以这个岛为故事背景。加斯帕里斯说说，我们一无所有。
来到澳大利亚的许多希腊人都会向墨尔本希腊东正教团体（Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne）秘书长马科斯（Costas Markos）求助。维多利亚州政府的资料显示，作为维多利亚州的首府，墨尔本有着全球第三大希腊语城市社区，仅排在雅典和塞萨洛尼基（Thessaloniki，希腊第二大城市）之后。
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