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Crisis Sends Greek Emigrants - Some For A Second Time - To 'Little Greece' Of NY

Official numbers are next to impossible to come by, but the ongoing debt crisis in Greece seems to be sparking a new wave of New York-bound emigration. For some, like "Mike" from Astoria, Queens, this is actually their second stint in th

A Greek bakery in New York (flickr4jazz)
A Greek bakery in New York (flickr4jazz)
Claire Gatinois

NEW YORK - It's been just about a year since Michaelis Klouvas came back to live in Astoria, a section of Queens, New York that is also known as "Little Greece." During his two-decade absence, the area has changed. The influence of his native country, so present before his departure, seems to have faded. Klouvas finds that Astoria is more mixed now, more Latino. "Before, there were Greek restaurants. Greek shops. Signs everywhere in Greek," he recalls.

Klouvas explains that once they had made enough money, a lot of Greeks packed up and headed for the more upscale suburbs on Long Island or in New Jersey. Others, like him, went back to Greece.

"Biggest mistake of my life," he says. "But my wife wanted the family back together again." That was in 1988, about 20 years after Klouvas first came to America to join his father, a carpenter, who'd emigrated to New York to seek his fortune. The situation back in Greece had improved a lot, so Klouvas – who now goes by the name "Mike" – decided along with many other of his exiled compatriots to go home.

For Klouvas, the first years back in Athens were admittedly quite nice. Business was good. There was plenty of money to go around. He opened a successful restaurant called Arxomani. "People used to line up to get in," he recalls. But then the crisis ruined everything. In three years, the country saw its GDP drop 11%. Unemployment jumped to 20%. People from the working and middle classes were hardest hit.

Subsidies, pensions and minimum salaries were all cut. "Today, in Greece, there isn't enough money to buy clothes, let alone go to a restaurant," says Klouvas.

More than 60 years old, white-haired but still chirpy, Klouvas decided to start all over again and head, once more, to the United States. He now works two jobs: one, as head manager of a restaurant that is about to open; the other as a waiter. Needless to say, he works long hours. "From 8 a.m. to sometimes 2 a.m. the next morning," he says. It's the price he must pay to have a little bit of money stashed away before his wife and two daughters arrive from Greece later this spring.

Tapping into old-school social networks

How many others are in the same situation? It's impossible to say with any certainty. While some Greeks have taken the steps to acquire residency papers, or are in the long process of applying for them, others are likely living in Astoria illegally. But there are definitely signs that immigration from Greece is on the rise. Last year the number of Greeks who flew into New York via JFK airport was up 20% compared to 2006. And at the Immigration Advocacy Services in Astoria, a nonprofit organization that helps newcomers navigate residency paperwork, staff have observed a 50% rise in Greek clients in just the past year.

It's safe to imagine too that given Greece's ongoing economic problems, there are plenty more who would like to make the trip. "All the Greeks want to come live here," says Spiro, a heavyset young Astoria resident who was born in the United States – and has the America flag tattooed on his right arm.

New York isn't, of course, the only landing point for U.S.-bound Greeks. But the community of Astoria remains a real magnet for many because of the personal ties people still have: often immigrants already have a brother, sister or parent living in Queens, something that can provide both a practical and psychological boost.

Stratos – who goes by the name "Steve" – is a case in point. The friendly 42-year-old arrived in Astoria about two months ago. He barely speaks English, but he dreams about a career as a soccer coach. For now he makes his living working as a clerk in small grocery shop owned by a friend of his mother's.

But for others, those without family members or connections, coming to the United States is a challenge, and a risk. "Back in my day, it was much easier," says Elias Tsekerides, president of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, an organization that promotes Greek culture.

Tsekerides, who arrived in 1963 and has two children he proudly calls "Greek-Americans," says he often receives letters or phone calls from people in Greece asking for help or advice about how emigrate. "People have sent me their resumes. But we're not an employment agency," he says.

Still, for the Greek families who stayed put in Astoria, there's something comforting about this second generation of arrivals. It's hard to say for sure, but at the recent Greek Independence Day Parade, the turnout seemed bigger than usual.

Read the original article in French

Photo - flickr4jazz

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Globalization Takes A New Turn, Away From China

China is still a manufacturing juggernaut and a growing power, but companies are looking for alternatives as Chinese labor costs continue to rise — as do geopolitical tensions with Beijing.

Photo of a woman working at a motorbike factory in China's Yunnan Province.

A woman works at a motorbike factory in China's Yunnan Province.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — What were the representatives of dozens of large American companies doing in Vietnam these past few days?

A few days earlier, a delegation of foreign company chiefs currently based in China were being welcomed by business and government leaders in Mexico.

Then there was Foxconn, Apple's Taiwanese subcontractor, which signed an investment deal in the Indian state of Telangana, enabling the creation of 100,000 jobs. You read that right: 100,000 jobs.

What these three examples have in common is the frantic search for production sites — other than China!

For the past quarter century, China has borne the crown of the "world's factory," manufacturing the parts and products that the rest of the planet needs. Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba.com platform is based on this principle: if you are a manufacturer and you are looking for cheap ball bearings, or if you are looking for the cheapest way to produce socks or computers, Alibaba will provide you with a solution among the jungle of factories in Shenzhen or Dongguan, in southern China.

All of this is still not over, but the ebb is well underway.

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