By Robert Stitt
Most people who want to buy a private island have selfish desires. Others who would have more noble aspirations don’t have the kind of money it takes to buy a private island. What if there was some way to have the best of both those worlds? Enter Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.
Sawiris is considering buying an island to house the world’s refugees. According to Celebrity NetWorth, the plan includes “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.” He is hoping others will join with him in the vision, but even if they don’t, he will personally provide food, energy, infrastructure and more for as long as it is necessary.
Sawiris wants to talk to the governments of Greece and Italy about the idea. While there is much that he has not considered about putting hundreds of thousands of desperate people on an island, he noted that “The way they are being treated now, they are being treated like cattle.”
Things changed for Sawiris when 3-year old Aylan Kurdi’s dead body made international headlines. Sawiris said, “My conscience has been awakened by the picture of this child. God put the image of this child in front of us for a reason. He could have been swallowed by the sea… I am serious with my intentions. I want to feel good about having done something good. Provide me with the island and I will do the rest.” Aylan drowned when a boat capsized seeking freedom on the Greek Island of Kos. Just this year, over 2000 refugees have drowned trying to get to Europe.
For those that survive the trip, freedom is not always how it was imagined. While Germany is expected to take in nearly a million refugees this year, many other countries are not opening their borders and this had created the situation Sawiris has sought to undo: large refugee camps with limited supplies and facilities.
Sawiris did not become a billionaire living in a dream land. He knows there are obstacles such as customs laws, religious freedoms and conflicts, and many other things that would need to be addressed if he did open up this island. He believes that waiting until all the questions are answered is not the right approach, however. At least getting the island would be “a step in the right direction.”
It will be interesting to see if anyone else joins him in this venture, or if international laws get in the way.