An Egyptian billionaire, 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.
Naguib Sawiris, the chairman of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding, has been in contact with the owners of the islands in hopes of moving ahead with the plan, according to a statement from his media office posted on his Facebook page. Sawiris said the talks would depend on whether the owners can secure approval from the Greek government.Sawiris has an estimated $3 billion fortune.The islands, if purchased, would still “fall under Greece’s jurisdiction,” the post clarified.
The future of the deal will depend on Athens’ approval to host the maximum number of refugees permitted under the country’s laws. He also claimed that the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR offered to co-operate on the project, which requires a minimum $100 million investment. He also seeks to create a new joint-stock company with a starting capital of $100m which will be tasked with handling donations.The third richest man in Africa has promoted the idea of “Aylan Island,” named in memory of Aylan Kurdi, ever since the story three-year-old Syrian toddler who washed up on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt to get to the Greek island of Kos was photo-documented, breaking international headlines earlier this month.
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.The TV tycoon praised the strong response from volunteers and investors that are willing to help the noble 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 favour, that is giving [Greece] the money anyhow,” Sawiris said.