This Egyptian Billionaire Wants to Buy an Entire Island to Shelter Syrian Refugees

Telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris has a plan to help the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Europe.

image via (cc) flickr user vincetraveller

As thousands of people fleeing ongoing violence across much of the Middle East–particularly Syria’s bloody civil war–continue to stream into Europe, that continent, and with it, the entire world, is scrambling to find a solution to this massive refugee crisis. Exact figures vary, but recent estimates by the United Nations put the number three thousand migrants per day passing through the Balkan states on their way to Western Europe. While some countries (namely: Germany, Sweden, and Hungary) are expected to feel the strain of this incoming influx of refugees more than others, the mass migration has thrown into stark relief just how ill-prepared the entire European Union is, when it comes to handling this humanitarian crisis.

While the E.U. and its members struggle to find an adequate and equitable response to the thousands upon thousands of incoming–and already arrived–refugees, an Egyptian billionaire has offered his own unique solution: Buy an island.

Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom Media, and whose $2.9 billion dollars puts him at number 577 on Forbes “World Billionare” list, tweeted his proposal earlier this week:

Lest you think Sawiris isn’t serious about his proposal, he followed up on his tweets in an interview with Agence France-Presse, saying: “You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees” and putting the cost at anywhere between $10-100 million dollars. Once purchased, he believes the island-haven could serve as a temporary home for refugees, in which they’d be given the opportunity to get back to work, building the infrastructure necessary to accommodate its occupants.

The ultimate goal of Sawiris’ plan, aside from creating a safe space for those fleeing their homes, is to afford them a renewed sense of humanity. As he explains to AFP: “The way they are being treated now, they are being treated like cattle.”

In the days since making his announcement, Sawiris has seemingly yet to move forward with the plan, although Quartz points out that there are a number of Mediterranean islands already for sale which he could purchase on the spot, without having to approach Greece or Italy.

Still, as the refugee crisis continues to grow, and European countries struggle to find a way to respond, Sawiris’ proposal–no matter how outlandish it may seem–highlights the fact that there are those out there searching for ways, large and small, to address one of the most pressing humanitarian needs of the twenty first century.

If you’d like to know what you can do to help with this crisis, GOOD has compiled a list of options and resources, here.

[via quartz]


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