'It's madness... they want to escape': Greeks flood relatives in Australia asking for help after No vote

Celebrating in front of the Greek parliament. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Vrasidas Karalis, a Greek-born academic who’s lived in Australia for 20 years, says he’s had dozens of highly qualified people from Greece begging for help to move here since the referendum rejecting the bailout package at the weekend.

“It has been heartbreaking to see the devastating toll this has had on the lives of the people in Greece,” he says.

“Dozens of highly qualified professionals like teachers, doctors, lawyers and academics have been reaching out to me pleading for help to find work in Australia.”

Karalis returned to Sydney from a visit to Athens just a week ago. He left what cash he had with his mother, a pensioner.

“I was visiting my Mum and left one day before the banks closed, so I left her some cash,” he told Business Insider. “Not a lot but some money. She’s a pensioner but has no access to her pension now, only a minimal amount a day. This is essentially 50 euros because that’s the only notes they have but in a few days they won’t even have that.”

Following the weekend No vote, Karalis has been flooded with emails from friends and acquaintances looking for help finding jobs in Australia.

“Today, it’s madness,” he says. “I’ve had so many emails and so many messages. They want to escape Greece. Most of them are with high qualifications, many with degrees from English universities or German ones.”

Neos Kosmos, Australia’s largest circulation Greek newspaper, reported last month that Australia was experiencing a second wave of Greek immigration from those seeking work here.

The Greek community has been sending money to relatives since the crisis began and cash started drying up.

However, most of the direct routes to get money into Greek have closed or are restricted. Greeks have to queue to get cash from their accounts and withdrawals are limited.

“I have been trying to send money to my mother but it is impossible because not even Paypal or Western Union are transferring money,” Karalis says.

“There’s no money left. The situation will be worse next Monday when there will be no cash left at all in the Greek banks.”

Some supermarkets with online shop fronts will still accept credit cards from overseas. So Australians are getting bags of groceries delivered to relatives.

“But for how long will that last?” Karalis says. “The government is thinking of intervening in these transaction because they are losing income, fees.”

Karalis, a professor of modern Greek at Sydney University, says the win by the No vote leads to the reshaping of the landscape for domestic Greek politics.

“Now it remains to be seen if the markets and the European institutions will be equally affected,” he says. “In many ways, what we see is the victory of politics over economics.”

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