In a move that may result in a Bond villain emerging in real life, an Egyptian billionaire has a novel solution to the refugees crisis currently happening in Europe. The Egyptian billionaire, Naguib Sawiris, who has been offering to buy a Mediterranean island to provide refugees with decent living conditions, has identified potential locations and is now in talks to purchase two private Greek islands.
The Egyptian tycoon made his money in television and has a fortune worth an estimated $3 billion. He has “identified two privately owned Greek islands that constitute a good opportunity for the project,” a statement from his communication office reads.
“We have corresponded with the owners and expressed our interest to go into negotiation[s] with them,” the statement also stated, clarifying that the islands, if purchased, would still “fall under Greece’s jurisdiction.” This clarification is just to show that he is not forming his own country just providing a safe haven whilst still under the Greek umbrella.
The future of the deal will depend on Athens’ approval to host the maximum number of refugees permitted under the country’s laws. Potentially the world’s largest Good Samaritan also hopes that Greece will take care of the “administrative process” of bringing the future migrant residence onto the islands.
The 61-year-old also claimed that the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has offered to work with him and his staff on the project, which requires a minimum $100m investment. The billionaire also seeks to create a new joint-stock company with a starting capital of an additional $100m which will be tasked with handling donations to the new refugee friendly islands.
The third richest man in Africa has promoted the idea voraciously and hopes to name these two islands “Aylan Island,” in memory of Aylan Kurdi. For those out of the loop on this, Aylan Kurdi was the story of a three-year-old Syrian toddler who washed up on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt to get to the Greek island of Kos and was photographed, becoming an image of the Syrian refuges struggle.
In an interview with Newsweek, the billionaire said that his letters to the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, have yet to be acknowledged by the two governments.
“I sent a letter saying that I need them to provide me permission to take the refugees there and if they have an island to sell, I am a buyer,” he told Newsweek. “It would help me much and what I need from them is the approval to get the refugees there and the administrative support,” in terms of customs and passport control as well as a small unit for security purposes.
While acknowledging that he is willing to spend up to $200 million on the purchase, the TV tycoon was also full of praise for the strong response from volunteers and investors worldwide who are willing to help the cause.
“I have got around 10,000 emails. Many people said they would volunteer to come and help me build this city, I have two people saying they want to donate $10m and so on,” he said.
Besides helping out the refugees, Sawiris says that buying Mediterranean island would help out austerity stricken Athens.
“I know that the Greek government owns a lot of islands that are uninhabited and they need the money. It would be doing the EU a favor, that is giving [Greece] the money anyhow,” Sawiris told Newsweek. “So it would look good that they are helping a humanitarian idea. It would be saving the EU from a burden and helping to do something [about the refugee crisis].”
If this isn’t the biggest win win win win you have ever seen then I don’t know where you are looking but I need to find it. The potential benefits for this are massive it saves truly countless lives and helps stabilise a Greek economy which has been in freefall for almost half a decade. Athens has to do this, they have to save these people and by extension their own.