As the prospect of Greece exiting the euro grows, British Home Secretary Theresa May has announced the government is considering plans to restrict immigration from Greece and other southern European countries caught up in the economic crisis.
Speaking to the Telegraph May said “work is ongoing” to restrict European immigration in the event of a financial collapse." In addition to fearing a sudden influx of Greeks the U.K. is worried about mass immigration from Portugal, Spain and Ireland, whose economies stand to suffer contagion from a Greek euro exit.
European Union laws allow the free movement of people within the eurozone but Britain is preparing contingency plans which could restrict the free movement by making economic migrants apply for work visas.
Greece is currently facing the largest exodus of its citizens since the 1960's as workers look abroad for jobs. High unemployment and political dissatisfaction are driving the Greek workforce abroad. According to a study published by Fes.de Greece has one of the highest graduate unemployment rates in Europe. High prices coupled with low wages are forcing young Greeks to consider taking their talents abroad.
The percentage of young Greeks with a foreign language skill (58.3%) is much higher than the European average of 39 percent. Greek applicants for work visas to the U.S. and Australia are high as many families have links to the diaspora and many Greeks see no future in Greece beyond austerity and unemployment.
According to the Telegraph the U.K. is also preparing contingency plans to deal with British citizens living in Greece in the event of a euro exit sparking a civil crisis.