Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, the second richest man in Egypt and who owns a television channel, has taken to Twitter to propose an initiative to help thousands of people fleeing from Syria and other conflicts.
The tycoon made the announcement on Twitter with a tweet that went viral stating: “Greece or Italy sell me an island, I’ll call it independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country.” Sawiris then confirmed his plan was genuine in an interview the following day.
Syria has been in conflict for four-and-a-half-years and since January more than 2,300 people have died at sea whilst trying to reach refuge in Europe.
Speaking in a television interview to AFP news, Sawiris said that he would approach both Italy and Greece about his plan.
When asked if he thought his idea was feasible Sawiris replied, “Of course it’s feasible. You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees.”
Although an island could cost anywhere between $10 and $100 million Sawiris added that the “main thing is investment in infrastructure,” explaining 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.”
So basically, the refugees would build their own future homes, giving them not only jobs but a roof over their head too, and they could return to their own country at any time through their own choice.
Sawiris is no stranger to building and constructing as his family developed the popular El Gouna resort, a small village on Egypt’s Red Sea Coast.
Although Sawiris is aware that his plan would face challenges, he says the main thing for the refugees is that, “This is a solution for them to be treated without humiliation because the way it is now they are being treated like cattle.”
In a TV interview with CBC News on Wednesday Sawiris said, “No sane person with integrity would look at the news and decide not to take action.”
Although at this stage it is just a glimmer of hope for desperate refugees, if there is anyone capable of successfully creating such a master plan, this is the man.
Sawiris has said that if he is successful with his plans he will name the island “Aylan Island,” after the Syrian toddler who was found washed up on a Turkish beach last week. Images of the three-year-old’s lifeless body prompted a wake-up call to the refugee crisis currently occurring in Europe.
Sawiris announced the name on Twitter saying, “I found a name for the Island ‘ILAN’ the young Syrian child thrown on Turkish shore by the sea to remind us! Now I need to find the island!”
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Images: Flickr/Bengin Ahmad