As the economic crisis intensifies in Greece, the number of Greeks coming to Sweden in search of housing and jobs has soared, a leader of the Scandinavian country’s Greek community said Tuesday.
“It looks like there will be double the number of Greeks coming this year as last year,” Komninos Chaideftos, the head of the National Greek Federation in Stockholm, told AFP, noting that more than one million people are now officially unemployed in Greece.
According to the Swedish Migration Board, the number of Greeks granted residence permits more than doubled between 2010 and 2011, from 371 to 767, and appeared set to rise even higher this year, with 400 registered by June 1st.
As European Union citizens, Greeks can spend three months in Sweden without a residence permit, but after that they need to show they have a job or a way to support themselves to be granted legal residence.
“There are many, many more Greeks who have not been able to get a residence permit than those who have,” Chaideftos said, adding that the situation would certainly worsen further after the summer when the seasonal tourism jobs in Greece evaporate.
Already, he said, his organization was seeing homeless Greeks in Sweden. “This is the first time we’ve seen these kinds of Greeks, regular people, not substance abusers, ending up homeless in Sweden,” he said, adding that many young people desperate to find work were ending up on the streets.
“I have been in touch with around 50,” he said. The problem, Chaideftos said, was that Greeks back home were desperate and willing to believe in a myth that Sweden was an easy country to get by in. “They have this idea that Sweden is a place where you can easily find work and housing,” he said, noting that his organisation had set up a working group aimed at informing Greeks back home and in Sweden about the way things actually work in the Scandinavian country.
“I mean, finding housing in Stockholm especially is a huge problem even for people who already live here,” Chaideftos said, adding that many highly educated Greeks were unable to land jobs they were qualified for and were instead getting stuck performing poorly paid unskilled labor.
“These people can’t pay 10,000 kronor ($1,400) for a small one-bedroom apartment when they’re making 30 to 40 kronor an hour,” he said.
His organization has also recently started Swedish classes for Greeks who do not have residence permits and are therefore not entitled to the free classes offered by Swedish municipalities, in a bid to help them enter society and find work.