Greek Australians feel heat of Greece debt crisis


Australia's Greek community says it is feeling the pressure of Greece's anticipated departure from the Euro zone as Australia's stocks tumble in reaction to the breakdown.

Greeks living in Australia say their businesses are being impacted by Greek's current debt woes as Australia's stock market reacts to the crisis.

Greek Australian Harry Ipermichou, who started his family business importing specialised Greek wines and spirits 34 years ago said his business had suffered a blow. 

He said following the closure of banks in Greece, Mr Ipermichou and his children who run the business with him had been left in limbo.

“I supply all the restaurants all over Australia and if I run out of stock, what can I do?” Mr Ipermichou told SBS News. “Everybody's shocked, we didn't expect this. I know they got problems, but I didn't expect banks close down.”

He said he received a shipment every month but did not know if his next shipment would arrive because he was unable to pay his supplier. 

“I got the documents here, to pay the suppliers overseas, but the bank says to me, I’m sorry we can’t [transfer], because the banks in Greece have closed down,” Mr Ipermichou said.

“The money stay here in Australia, until the problems, they fixed overseas - probably, God know, five days, two weeks, three weeks.”

Trade between Australia and Greece is worth almost $190 million with imports from Greece making up the bulk of that, at $150 million.

The Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's George Iliopoulos said the crisis in Greece would impact the broader Australian public.

“We deal with large companies here, and we don't know what the reaction will be when we go to our clients and say look, unfortunately, we don't know whether we can have stock to replenish because of the economic situation in Greece,” he said.

He said many Greek Australians were questioning their investments in Greece.

“What we've seen in the last couple of days, will make them think twice about investing into property and anything else in Greece.”

Concern for family abroad

Greek Australians are expressing concern for their loved ones in the beleaguered nation. Harry Ipermichou who lives in Australia and regularly speaks with his family in Greece worries about their welfare.

“I support my family, they very poor over there, they lost their business, they lost everything, they're now renting,” he said.

“And [we] try help as much as we can, but they say, my sister this morning, she's crying, saying don't send any money because I can't send it off.”

Professor Nikos Papastergiadis, from Melbourne University’s Public Cultures research unit says he fears a large humanitarian repercussion if the crisis is not resolved.

“If a Grexit [Greek exit from the Eurozone] actually occurs, the reality is, thousands will die in the next winter,” he said.

“The cost of heating will skyrocket. The cost of medical supplies will sky rocket, and people will freeze in that first winter, because remember, for all the sunny images of Greece, two thirds of the country experience sub-zero temperatures in the winter.

Professor Papastergiadis said the crisis would further impact already record unemployment and poverty.

“On the ground, people are nervous, but also, people are indignant. So you have equal measures of indignation and anxiety, which is a potentially explosive situation for a society to live with.”

Australia's stock markets tumble amid crisis

Australia's stock markets have suffered a downturn in reaction to the crisis with more than $41 billion has been wiped off the Australian share market.

Both the S&P/ASX 200 and All Ordinaries were down about 2.3 per cent this afternoon. IG market strategist Evan Lucas says the market is on track for its worst day in several years.

Greece has announced that it will shut banks for a week, closing until 6 July as the government tries to manage the financial fallout of the disagreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece's banks, kept afloat by emergency funding from the European Central Bank, are on the front line as Athens moves towards defaulting on a 1.6 billion euros payment due to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday.

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-with Reuters

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