Home is where the work is for struggling Europeans
FOR years Europeans have wrestled with immigration, from worries about changing national identity to integration and use of resources.
Yet something has changed. From Ireland to Greece, Europeans are now the ones desperately seeking an exit from economies in freefall. While worlds away politicians from emerging economies such as Brazil or those with skills shortages, such as Australia, are busy publicising the opportunities they offer. But what is life like for those who follow the money and move abroad for work?
Britain to Botswana
Shiraz Chakera, 34, works for UNICEF in Gaborone, Botswana. ''I did not think about going abroad at first'', he says, after the British government abolished his employer, an education policy unit. ''But the opportunities in Britain were minimal. Thanks to the economic crises and government policies, there wasn't going to be much investment in education.''
He found a job with the Akanksha Foundation in India, which runs schools in partnership with the government to improve education in the slums.
Then he got a call from UNICEF offering him a job in Botswana that he had applied for earlier. ''I was excited because it was an organisation I really wanted to work for and a job that would make a big difference.
''I didn't know much about Botswana, although I had relatives who lived there in the '80s. I got the sense it was a sleepy country, sparsely populated, but well-off and with an emerging economy. If my wife had vetoed it we wouldn't have gone.
''Gaborone is a small city and after London and Mumbai really felt it. There isn't much going on. It has been hard to get used to a social life that revolves round pool parties and barbecues.
''We miss the street food in India, and the bars, restaurants and cafes in London. But having said that, Botswana is a lovely place and the people are great. … London will always be home and I wish I could visit more often. My brother has just had a second child and Skype doesn't cut it.''
Greece to Australia
Since the economic crisis hit Greece, Australia has become the land of opportunity for those fleeing the money worries and social unrest in their homeland. Last year Australia was expecting a 65 per cent increase in Greek migrants, and with unemployment in the Mediterranean country at 26.8 per cent, this is likely to increase. Many new immigrants have family links from previous waves of migration. Litsa Georgiou, 49, who migrated with her husband, Vlassis, and their five-year-old daughter, Iliana, is no exception. But that hasn't made the upheaval easier.
Litsa Georgiou: ''We made the big move two years ago and it was exhausting, emotionally and physically. The crisis is entirely to blame. If I had my way I would still be living in Greece. I think about it every day and speak to friends there at least once a week. I miss the lifestyle, which is much more laid back than Australia and, of course the atmosphere and traditions. I've found Australia hard even though I grew up here for a while.''
Vlassis Georgiou: ''We had to start all over again moving here. Greece is my country but we just couldn't survive there … By the time we left it was crazy. I saw dead dogs in the rubbish and it was clear they had been eaten … And then everyone knows someone who has taken their own life. I wasn't an exception.
''In Greece a day's wage is what you can earn in an hour in Australia. I've got a good job here working in unit maintenance, tending to buildings and gardens. In Greece you stress because you don't have work. Here, it's the work that stresses you … There's not much time to relax, but healthcare and schools are much better in Australia and it's a country with opportunities.
''We're not living the best life but if you want to survive, Australia is the best country.''
Ireland to the UAE
Ireland is no stranger to mass emigration but figures show it is at a 25-year high. The former Celtic Tiger now has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in Europe, with 14.6 per cent out of work.
Emigrants such as Brendan Doris, 62, feel they have been forced out of their home by the crisis. ''I moved to the United Arab Emirates out of desperation. I came at the end of September 2012 and I will be here for at least four years … I'm an architect and self-employed, but I couldn't get enough work in Ireland. My clients kept putting projects on hold - there was potential work, but I can't eat potential.
''We had used all … our savings to keep paying our mortgage and I didn't know what else to do.
''I knew I couldn't bring my family out because one of my daughters is autistic and it took years to get the system of support we have now, such as a specialist school. I have four children aged 10-15, just the stage in life where they are making their own ties in society.
So to bring them to an asphalt strip in the middle of the desert - not meaning to be derogatory about UAE, but that's what it is - would be a wrench.
''It has been difficult emotionally. I spend an hour-and-a-half on Skype with the family every night, helping with their homework and watching them having their meal, so we have a virtual family evening - in some respects it's more regular than when I was there. But this is very stressful and we still go through periods of doubt about whether we are doing the right thing.
''I miss them. From when I finish work at six in the evening until six the next morning, it's all I think about. Many nights I wake up and just look at the sky. I wouldn't like to live here permanently because you can't become a citizen and I am very attached to my own country.''
Portugal to Mozambique
It is a bad time to be young, Portuguese and looking for work. The country's youth unemployment rate has just hit 39.1 per cent. Diogo Gomes emigrated two years ago. He had just finished a degree in business and marketing management and realised if he wanted to work his best chance lay overseas
Gomes, from Oporto, enrolled in a government program placing trainees with Portuguese companies around the world and offering financial support. ''Three weeks before leaving the country, I was informed that Maputo, Mozambique, would be my destiny the following months.''
Now the 25-year-old, who is single, relishes this corner of southern Africa with its ocean views, elegant colonial-era architecture and celebrated seafood. ''Actually, I consider myself a pretty lucky person. The Mozambican lifestyle is amazing and it's very easy to adapt. There are plenty of things to do at night and you can have fun every day of the week.''
Gomes is the commercial and marketing manager of a hotel chain with properties in Portugal as well as Mozambique and Angola. He is one of thousands of Portuguese with a sense that the grass is greener in these two former colonies, both of which are prospering as their one-time ruler declines.
The Portuguese occupation of Mozambique was a bitter chapter in African history, but Gomes does not detect schadenfreude or resentment. ''Mozambican people are very intelligent, they know that the colonial era is part of the past,'' he says. ''They know that their beautiful country needs improvement and that we are here to make it happen faster.''
Gomes misses the life he left behind, but not too much.
''Despite all the negative points, home is always home and Portugal still is a fantastic place to live. You only give the right value to certain things when you are far from them. But I'm very happy where I am and twice a year is enough to visit my family and friends and go back to my roots.''
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