Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said he wants to buy an island off the coast of Greece or Italy on which he could house refugees, the Local reported. Sawiris's comments Friday came amid escalating tensions in Europe as thousands of refugees from Syria and across the Middle East and North Africa continued to arrive in EU nations daily, causing shelters to become dangerously overcrowded.
"You have dozens of islands [that] are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees," Sawiris said in a recent interview. The billionaire, who is the chief executive of the telecommunications company Orascom TMT, first announced his plan on Twitter Tuesday and has since elaborated in multiple interviews with news outlets.
He said the island would not just be a makeshift shelter for refugees but would be a place where the refugees could help construct a new independent nation. Sawiris said he and the refugees would build everything from houses to schools to universities on the independent island though anyone would be free to leave if the situation at home improved.
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!
— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 5, 2015
"Greece or Italy sell me an island. I'll call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country," he wrote in a post to Twitter. He said he believed an island could cost between $10 million and $100 million though he had not yet contacted either the Italian or Greek governments.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated more than 300,000 people have arrived on Europe's eastern and southern borders since January 2015. At least 2,300 others have died trying to make the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa or the Middle East via the Aegean or Mediterranean seas.