Left with no op­tions for work, many mi­grants head­ing home

Since end-2010, IOM has re­ceived about 14,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for vol­un­tary repa­tri­a­tion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS ONISHENKO

“We’ll hang on to the good things. We will look back to the Greeks who helped us and who did not treat us as en­e­mies, but we are leav­ing be­cause it’s not pos­si­ble to make a liv­ing here any­more.”

Peo­ple come to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM) of­fices in Alimos, south­ern Athens, to file their ap­pli­ca­tions for vol­un­tary repa­tri­a­tion. Speak­ing to Kathimerini, they look back at the years spent in Greece. Most of them say they ar­rived here years ago with hope as well as fear. The prospect of go­ing back now fills them with fear.

Nu­rule As­tu­tik, a 23-year-old woman from In­done­sia, is leav­ing Greece for Iraq. She came here about three years ago to work as a house­keeper. Re­cently, As­tu­tik found out she did not have the req­ui­site num­ber of so­cial se­cu­rity cred­its to get a res­i­dence per­mit.

Her spouse, 33-year-old Yahia Azadin from Iraq, has sim­i­lar prob­lems. He came to Greece in 2004 to work in the then boom­ing con­struc­tion sec­tor. Things ran smoothly for a few years un­til job op­por­tu­ni­ties started to dwin­dle. Azadin’s asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion was re­jected.

Azadin and As­tu­tik, who are both Mus­lim, were mar­ried a few months ago in a cer­e­mony held at one of the makeshift mosques in the cen­ter of Athens. How­ever, their bond is not of­fi­cially rec­og­nized by the state.

“We can­not stay here be­cause there is no work for us. We can­not even is­sue the nec­es­sary doc­u­ments for a proper wed­ding,” Azadin says.

“I do not want to leave Greece, but I am left with no choice. We will go to Iraq and see what hap­pens.”

Since the end of 2010, the IOM has re­ceived 14,000 ap­pli­ca­tions from im­mi­grants here who wish to re­turn to their home coun­tries.

(l) and Nu­rule As­tu­tik (r), who are both Mus­lim, were mar­ried a few months ago in a cer­e­mony held at one of the makeshift mosques lo­cated in the cen­ter of Athens. How­ever, their bond is not of­fi­cially rec­og­nized by the Greek state. Now the cou­ple are try­ing to move to Azadin’s na­tive coun­try, Iraq.

In 2012 a to­tal of 6,324 peo­ple – most of them from Afghanistan, Pak­istan, Bangladesh and Iraq – left Greece with the IOM pro­gram. An­other 800 were repa­tri­ated in a scheme funded by Nor­way.

The main rea­sons they cite are high un­em­ploy­ment, the fail­ure to is­sue res­i­dency per­mits, and the ris­ing num­ber of racially mo­ti­vated at­tacks.

“The Greeks are nice and hos­pitable. But the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try is not good, and in this kind of sit­u­a­tion peo­ple be­come harder,” says David Abas, a 26-year-old Pak­istani, in flu­ent English. Abas says he had to pay smug­glers 4,000 eu­ros to get here. He says he has a de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence in com- puter main­te­nance.

In Greece Abas mostly worked for farm­ers. “I trav­eled from Skala in the Pelo­pon­nese to file my pa­pers and go back. There is no work, I don’t know what else to do,” says Abas as a fel­low Pak­istani asks him for help to com­mu­ni­cate with IOM staff.

“He is not a friend of mine. I just met him here,” Abas says. “He too is try­ing to make his way back home, but he speaks nei­ther Greek nor English,” the 26-year-old says.

“I will never for­get Greece, in spite of the dif­fi­cul­ties and the in­jus­tices I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced,” he says, re­call­ing that he was at­tacked near Vic­to­ria Square in cen­tral Athens few months ago.

“My fa­ther is beg­ging me to go home all the time. He is quite old. He could die, and I’m afraid that I won’t make it in time to see him,” he says.

Sar Ibrahim, 24, is from Sene­gal, a coun­try that most Greeks would not be able to lo­cate on a map. He tells us that in the five years that he spent here, he had no op­por­tu­nity to make friends. “The only Greeks I met were farm­ers who gave me work. And I didn’t have much to do even with them,” he says.

“I worked in the olive groves. To­day I have no more money, be­cause I spent ev­ery­thing that I saved when I found my­self out of work. I am con­cerned about my­self, my fu­ture, and my fam­ily. But I am leav­ing Greece.”

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