The PJ Tatler

Billionaire Seeks to Build Island Refuge for Those Fleeing ISIS

As Western governments debate what to do with the astonishing number of refugees fleeing the crisis in the Middle East, one man has proposed a unique solution and is taking steps to try to make it a reality.

Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris has begun conversations with the governments of Greece and Italy about purchasing one or two islands to serve as housing for 100,000-200,000 refugees. Sawiris, a  Christian, says that he is putting his faith into action by proposing the island-purchase solution.

Sawiris told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that he was moved into action by the photo of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi and pictures of the treatment of refugees in Hungary.

“I cannot just sit like that and just do nothing, you know, and pretend it’s not my problem.”

The tycoon says he understands that the logistics of his plan will take some creativity:

“The challenge for this idea is not just finding the island and buying the island.” He said logistics such as gaining consent from the prime minister to house and host refugees is the biggest potential obstacle.

“You can’t just take people and put them on an island that you bought that falls under jurisdiction. They don’t have visas. We need… a passport control agency. We need people to check them out. You need their data. You need customs. So the real challenge of the idea is that to have the authorities accept the fact that you will host immigrants there.”

Sawiris proposes building a temporary marina, housing, and other facilities like schools and hospitals, and he wants to train refugees to develop and build what could become a permanent city for them. He admits that any plans for the refugees must include long-term strategies.

Sawiris is also urging the world to unite to fight ISIS, whom he calls “soldiers of the devil.” He is setting up a corporation to allow individuals and organizations to donate to help him with his project.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Alexandre Rotenberg