Egypt billionaire offers to buy island for refugees

Sep 05, 2015, 08:15 IST | Agencies

After the picture of a Syrian refugee boy washed ashore on an island went viral, Egypt’s third richest man, Naguib Sawiris disclosed that he plans to purchase an island off Italy or Greece to help people fleeing from Syria and other conflicts

Cairo: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered to buy an island off Greece or Italy and develop it to help hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from Syria and other conflicts. “Greece or Italy sell me an island, I’ll call its independence and host the refugee and provide jobs for them building their new country,” he wrote on twitter.

Naguib Sawiris would approach the governments of Greece and Italy about his plan. Pic/AFP
Naguib Sawiris would approach the governments of Greece and Italy about his plan. Pic/AFP

More than 2,300 people have died at sea trying to reach Europe since January, many of them Syrians who fled their country’s four-and-a-half year conflict. Sawiris said in a television interview that he would approach the governments of Greece and Italy about his plan.

$10 mn and $100 mn
Sawiris said an island off Greece or Italy could cost between $10 million and $100 million, but added the “main thing is investment in infrastructure”.

There would be “temporary shelters to house the people, then you start employing the people to build housing, schools, universities, hospitals. “And if things improve, whoever wants to go back (to their homeland) goes back,” said Sawiris.

‘It’s feasible’
On being asked whether he believed it could work, he said, “Of course it’s feasible. You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees.”

Treated like cattle
He conceded such a plan could face challenges, including the likely difficulty of persuading Greece or Italy to sell an island, and figuring out jurisdiction and customs regulations. But those who took shelter would be treated as “human beings,” he said.

“The way they are being treated now, they are being treated like cattle.” Sawiris is the chief executive of Orascom TMT, which operates mobile telephone networks in a number of Middle Eastern and African countries plus Korea as well as underwater communications networks.

European Union ‘must accept 200,000 refugees’, UN says
Geneva: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees called on the European Union to admit up to 200,000 refugees as part of a “mass relocation programme” that would be binding on EU states.

“People who are found to have a valid protection claim... must then benefit from the programme, with the mandatory participation of all EU member states,” Antonio Guterres said.

Referring to the pictures of the dead child, which “had stirred the hearts”, Guterres said, “Europe cannot go on responding to this crisis with a piecemeal or incremental approach.”

30 people feared drowned off Libya
At least 30 refugees are feared to have drowned off Libya after their boat began to sink, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said yesterday. Some 91 survivors rescued by the Italian coastguard said the boat had been carrying between 120 and 140 people when it began to deflate.

Britain extends helping hand
Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to announce that Britain will accept thousands of Syrian refugees as a major migrant crisis engulfs Europe. There have been increasing calls for the UK to take in more refugees. Cameron said that Britain would fulfill its “moral responsibilities.”

No of refugees who risked their lives since January making the treacherous crossing via Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe

6,00k Euros
The amount received by charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station, since the picture of the drowned Syrian toddler went viral

Number of people who died at sea trying to reach Europe since January this year

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