Greek-Canadians Returning to Canada Due to Greek Crisis

MONTREAL – The prolonged economic crisis in Greece, high unemployment and financial instability, will likely bring a new wave of immigrants to Canada from Greece next fall.

This, at least, is the feeling in the Greek community of Montreal, as more and more young people are quick to seek the help of relatives and friends in order to help them settle in Canada and find a stable job.

“My nephew made the decision to come to Canada after his small fast-food restaurant had to close in Zakynthos,” says Thanasis Zacharopoulos, a retired builder, from Pyrgos Ileias.

“He found himself owing everywhere. In the Tax Office, IKA, OAEE and half of the suppliers as the shop did not do well. Now, at the age of 45, with his wife and two children, they see no other alternative but immigration.”

Panayiotis Theophanis a 69-year-old former craftsman in the fur business on the west side of Montreal is expecting his son to arrive from Greece in September. “He returned to Greece in 2007, in Piraeus he dealt with computers but now, more than a year without permanent work, he already has his ticket to return to Canada.”

But it’s not just the personal testimony that shows the upward trend in immigration from Greece. The Canadian Embassy in Athens on Thursday, August 3 made two announcements with instructions for Canadian nationals who want to return to the country, but also for the legalization process for those non-Canadians who want to work or study in Canada.

An accurate picture of how many Greeks have immigrated to Canada since the beginning of the crisis up to now does not exist. This is because the vast majority of those who arrived in the country were of Canadian citizenship.

That is to say Greeks living abroad or children of Greek expatriates who had decided to return to Greece and because of the circumstances they returned to Canada, usually young people with Canadian citizenship from one of their two parents.

Such is the case of Eutychia Mesiskli, 34, from Patras who settled in Montreal about two months ago. Her Canadian passport proved to be extremely useful.

“The importance of citizenship in Canada is enormous. Since the procedures for the required residence cards are very time-consuming – often arduous – the citizenship card is valuable and greatly facilitates the process for economic immigrants,” she told TNH.

She added, “Personally, I managed in a relatively short period of time to find work, to secure my medical care, but even to get a simple phone number, as it is a prerequisite to have some element of Canadian identity in order to get it.

“More generally, dealing with public services is easier and practically painless, which is true of my banking transactions as well. I have noted that it is difficult for someone to get a bank account without first obtaining the necessary residency papers or permission from their employer. Otherwise, Canada can certainly be a difficult place to deal with, even presenting gaps in its bureaucratic system.”

Hundreds of new immigrants with Greek citizenship will have to wait for months to complete their legalization documents, get a right to work, and access card to the public healthcare system.

According to the Canadian Statistical Service in 2015, 477 permanent resident cards were issued to Greek citizens, much higher than in 2014, when 373 cards were issued, mainly in the provinces of Ontario (Toronto) and Quebec (Montreal).

But again, this is not a sign of the number of new Greek immigrants, as it has been said, since those with Canadian passports are more likely to choose to return to Canada. A recent report by the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad said that in Canada the Greek-born inhabitants are estimated at 350,000.


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