Greeks in Melbourne can endure agonising waits of up to two years for citizenship appointments and vital matters to be resolved, all amidst staffing shortages at the Greek Consulate, said the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), Bill Papastergiadis, in a letter to Georgios Gerapetritis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece.
Papastergiadis urged the Minister to take action regarding the “dramatic reduction of staff” in the Consulate and the impact of these reductions on the diaspora.
The GCM president said that “only four employees are available” to service one of the largest Greek diaspora communities in the world, the Melbourne Greek community.
Papastergiadis underscores what is a Kafkaesque nightmare for many, where it may take up “to two years for an appointment” to obtain Greek citizenship or to resolve other pertinent matters. Readers regularly contact Neos Kosmos with tales of horror when dealing with the Consulate.
The Greek government has successfully prioritised the digitisation of services, yet, it has starved the Consulate in Melbourne of staffing, administrative and digital capacity. To add insult to injury, Melbourne has the third largest Greek-speaking population in the world, with over 300,000 Greek speakers.
The GCM president, in his letter, writes: “…in other overseas cities with fewer Greeks, such as Munich, the Consulates General are staffed with double and triple the number of staff.”
One often enters a time vortex in the Greek Consulate in Melbourne and finds themselves back in the Greek bureaucratic past of 1982. The ones seeking help may endure endless waiting times, actual paper trails, and a few overworked staff, all making for an ordeal.
These issues may compound as Greece opens voting to the diaspora for national elections. Papastergiadis clarifies in his letter that there is no criticism of the Greek Consul General Emmanuel S. Kakavelakis or the consular staff, who are always there to promote Greece and assist where possible.
If anything, the lack of resources faced by Kakavelakis and his team
“…[W]e are satisfied with both the Consul General, Mr Kakavelakis and the current staff, and this letter has nothing to do with their ability or service.
The letter reads as follows:
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Giorgos Gerapetritis
With this letter, we wish to inform you of an essential issue of concern to the Hellenic community of Melbourne about the services and facilities offered by the Consulate General of Greece operating in our city.
The large number of Greeks living in Melbourne – considered the third largest Greek-speaking city in the world – needs more prompt service from the Consulate General, and there is an immediate need for an increase in staffing.
Today, we are particularly concerned because the situation has worsened with the dramatic reduction in staff. There are only four employees available to service Melbourne’s Greek diaspora community. The number of Greeks is increasing, while at the same time, in other overseas cities with fewer Greeks, such as Munich, the Consulates General are staffed with double and triple the number of staff.
In the past, the Consulate employed up to 15 people, while today, it takes more than two years for appointments to obtain Greek citizenship or other issues!
We are satisfied with both the Consul General, Mr Kakavelakis and the current staff, and this letter has nothing to do with their ability or service.
In our efforts to maintain and strengthen our ties with Greece, we believe that provision should be made for better staffing of the Consulate General in Melbourne. This will result in a more effective service for the diaspora community and Australians who wish to visit our country or have trade and investment relations with Greece.
It is worth noting that this issue is also of great concern to the significant Greek-language media, which together with us are facing the discontent of the expatriates about the problematic services of the Consulate General in Melbourne, which, due to a lack of staff, do not serve the needs of our community.
We note that the radio stations 3XY (Radio Hellas) and Rhythmos, as well as our leading mastheads Neos Kosmos, Ta Nea Nea and Greek Herald, have repeatedly dealt with this issue, like the GCMV; they field many phone calls from the diaspora complaining about the long delays in processing their cases at the Consulate General of Melbourne.
We look forward to your positive response and addressing the issue immediately, especially when the government is trying to attract overseas investment and strengthen the bonds of the diaspora community through programs like the postal vote.
As President of the Greek Community of Melbourne, I would particularly appreciate the opportunity to contact you to discuss further the problem and the possibilities of addressing it.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs