‘Greece or Italy, sell me an island’: Billionaire wants to create sanctuary to treat refugees like ‘humans beings’

AP Photo/Selcuk Bulent)AP Photo/Selcuk Bulent)Syrian migrants on board a dinghy travel from the Greek island of Lesbos to the Greek island of Khios, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015.

CAIRO — Egyptian billionaire formalized his offer to and on Monday to sell him an island where he could create a refuge for some of the hundreds of thousands of people trying to reach Europe.

Simon Dawson/BloombergSimon Dawson/Bloomberg

But neither country has shown any sign of taking the offer up since he first broadcast it on social media last week, said the chairman and chief executive of Orascom Telecom, Media and Technology.

“All I am asking is find me an island, I will make the financial payment for it,” said Sawiris, adding that images of the desperate trying to reach the two countries prompted him to act.

“Enough is enough.”

Sawiris said an island off Greece or Italy could cost between US$10 million and US$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 company operates mobile telephone networks in a number of Middle Eastern and African countries plus Korea.

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.

Greece or Italy sell me an island,ill call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country

— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 1, 2015


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


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.”

“All I need is the permission to put these people on this island. After that I don’t need anything anymore from them. I’ll pay them for the island, I’ll provide the jobs, I’ll take care of all the logistics. I know I can do that,” he told CNN Money.

Sawiris, from a powerful Coptic Christian family, said the tourism-dependent economies of Egypt and Tunisia had been devastated by militancy linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State and the groups would create more refugees from Syria and Iraq.

The west needed a stronger response. “You kill, you get killed. Nothing else.”

With files from Agence France Presse

About Michael Georgy, Reuters