Egypt billionaire offers to buy island for refugees

The telecoms tycoon, Naguib Sawiris, first announced the initiative on Twitter.

“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.

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.

Asked by Agence France-Presse 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.”

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, whose family developed the popular El Gouna resort on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.

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.

He also owns an Egyptian television channel. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

‘Courageous reinvention’: an extract from Mark Gevisser’s ‘The Pink Line’

In this extract from Mark Gevisser’s new book, Aunty, fleeing abuse and witchcraft, treks to northern Malawi

Meet refugee camp’s ‘Corona Guy’

One radio presenter is using the airwaves to bring vital facts about the virus to Dadaab’s 217 000 residents

Remembering the cruelty of strongman Nkurunziza and his regime

Burundi’s president was a cruel and tyrannical leader under whom no one was safe, not even schoolchildren

South Africa excludes refugees and asylum seekers from Covid-19 aid

Despite being protected in South Africa by law, these groups have been swept aside when it comes to relief packages

Xenophobia chips away at the African notion of ubuntu

The multifaceted and complex issues facing the continent can only be tackled effectively together

Refugees safe for now but what about after lockdown?

The City of Cape Town has said in a statement that it is working around the clock to keep vulnerable people safe
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday