This article was published in Hürriyet Daily News on Jan. 9, 2012
Erdem Güneş / ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
The peaceful atmosphere between Turkey and Greece is a major factor in Greeks choosing to seek employment in Turkey, according to Assistant Professor Dimitris Triantaphyllou who came to Istanbul from Athens last year
Turkey – especially Istanbul – stands out as a popular destination for Greeks seeking jobs abroad as Greece suffers a major economic crisis.
In spite of accusations of “betrayal” by ultra-nationalist Greeks, rapprochement between Turkey and Greece is resulting in increased political, economic and social benefits for both sides, Assistant Professor Dimitris Triantaphyllou, Director of the Center for International and European Studies (CIES) at Kadir Has University, told the Daily News.
Some 1.2 million people, nearly 10 percent of the population, emigrated from Greece last year, according to recently published statistics in the World Bank’s “The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011.”
Triantaphyllou, who came from Athens to Istanbul more than a year ago before Greece was hit hard by the economic crisis, said not only single, educated, young people were leaving Greece, but even some families had begun to emigrate.
“This happens during hard times, like the emigration process after the Second World War,” he said.
According to Triantaphyllou the peaceful atmosphere between the neighboring countries, for which he gave credit to late İsmail Cem and Georgios Papandreou, is a major factor in Greeks’ preference of coming to Turkey.
Psychologist Odysseas Voutsinas moved from Athens to Istanbul last month. Voutsinas was born in Istanbul in 1964 and studied at the Özel Fener Rum Erkek Lisesi before moving to Athens with his family. In the 1960s Turkish-Greek relations were strained over the Cyprus issue, so many Greeks left the country because of the high tension.
Voutsinas studied social services and psychology in the University of Athens and worked in Greece for 30 years, but he said that he always had the idea of “returning” on his mind.
‘Hard to leave, hard to come back’
Last year he decided to come back. “It was hard to leave Turkey, but it was hard to come back too. The crisis in Greece was maybe a chance for the ones who wanted to come back to Istanbul.”
Voutsinas said the patriarchate and the Greek community welcomed the newcomers just like the locals did.
Fouli Koti, 25, came to Istanbul three months ago from Thessaloniki. “I am afraid that the Greek economy is going to get worse. My friends also do not have hope for the near future. They want to leave as well,” she said.
Koti was working as a manager for a Vodafone franchise store in Thessaloniki. She said that one year ago there were more than 30 stores, but only two remain open in the city. She decided to come to Turkey after a call from her childhood friend Apostolos, who had been living in Istanbul for one year. Koti moved to Istanbul and began working in the customer service department of an international oil company.
“I wanted to take a risk and have a ‘Turkey adventure,’ but I must say I am disappointed in some ways,” she said. “I was living in one of the most popular districts in Thessaloniki and I was paying 340 euros for a big house of my own. Now I live in the central European side of Istanbul and pay the same amount for a small room in a shared house.”