Are Greeks really Albanians?

GreeceHow the Albanian immigrants are suffering from the crisis

Saban repairs a Vespa in the workshop of a motorcycle and car rental in Crete. He came to the Greek island in 1991 at the age of 18. The car mechanic now has a wife and three children.

"It was good, we had a good job. Until the crisis."

Like almost all Albanians and Greeks in the country, the austerity policy hit him hard. The drastic increase in VAT and the reduction in unemployment benefits are just two examples. In addition, however, there are the special working conditions that employees in the tourism industry are exposed to, explains Saban:

"One problem is that the bosses only insure you for four hours a day, but you work twelve hours and that also on Saturdays and Sundays."

Bosses save themselves social security and taxes

His boss owns 500 vehicles. If he only legally hires his employees part-time, he saves on social security and taxes. Saban and the others receive additional money in hand for their illegal work. But there can be no question of regular payment. Like supplicants, they have to keep begging their employers for the money they are entitled to, says the Albanian. Haxhi, a 31-year-old compatriot who has an assistant job at a car rental company, says:

"I earn 900 euros a month during the season. But when I want to pick up my money, the boss often says, take 200 first, come back in two weeks, then you get 100 or 500 euros."

Haxhi came to Greece in 1994 when he was nine years old. Instead of going to school, he had to tend sheep for a Greek farmer as a child. He has been in the tourist stronghold of Crete for 15 years. And here it is much better. But when it comes to semi-legal employment relationships, he is also exposed to the arbitrariness of his employer. For example, last year Haxhi had a motorcycle accident at work. It was not his fault. But since the insurance of the person who caused the accident did not pay, his boss withheld part of the badly earned wages:

"Instead of saying you survived, he withheld 700 euros. I was in a coma for 24 hours in the hospital. 700 euros, he just didn't pay a month's wage! It's as if he had taken the bread out of my hand."

However, there are no alternatives. Saban sees it that way too.

"We can't ask much either. Otherwise the boss will say: Go somewhere else. But it's the same everywhere."

At home, Saban often watches Albanian television programs. That's what most of his compatriots do here. But like him, his children speak flawless Greek.

"They have no problems at all at school. I am satisfied with the lessons. That is one of the reasons why I do not try to go anywhere else."

There are no alternatives for many Albanian immigrants

Another reason: He does not yet have a Greek passport. That costs over 700 euros per person. He can't afford that. Many Albanians who have already acquired Greek citizenship have emigrated to other EU countries. For Saban and his family of five, this is not an alternative - despite the unprotected working conditions.

Greek governments have never really taken action against undeclared work. That has now changed a little under the left Syriza government, says Saban's colleague Tarik. He has been working for a rent-a-car company for many years, driving the cars to the tourists, collecting them and washing them.

"Now they have become stricter. That's why many are starting to pay social security."

The principle of officially only hiring employees on a half-day basis is unlikely to change anytime soon. And the wages are not exactly generous either - between 500 and 900 euros a month. However, only during the season, Tarik emphasizes:

"I work six months and after that I only get unemployment benefits for three months."

The unemployment benefit for seasonal workers is 330 euros. They only get that for three months. In winter, many Albanians therefore look for jobs in agriculture. For example when harvesting olives. The black one, too, and here too Tarik only received half of the agreed wage for two months of work.

After all, thanks to tourism and agriculture, the Albanians would somehow get by in Crete - despite the crisis. But normal life looks different, says Tarik.