Naguib Sawiris the Egyptian billionaire who offered to buy a Mediterranean island to help house refugees fleeing conflict and instability, has identified possible locations and is now in negotiations to purchase two private Greek islands.
The businessman announced earlier this month that he was looking to buy an island which would “host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country”.
As well as helping the refugees, Sawiris says that buying a Mediterranean island would help austerity stricken Athens.
RT reports: Egyptian TV tycoon Naguib Sawiris, whose fortune is worth an estimated $3 billion, has “identified two privately owned Greek islands that constitute a good opportunity for the project,” a statement from his communication office reads.
— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 14, 2015
“We have corresponded with the owners and expressed our interest to go into negotiation[s] with them,” the statement added, clarifying that the islands, if purchased, would still “fall under Greece’s jurisdiction.”
The future of the deal will depend on Athens’ approval to host the maximum number of refugees permitted under the country’s laws. Sawiris also hopes that Greece will take care of the “administrative process” of bringing the future migrant residence onto the islands.
The 61-year-old also claimed that the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR offered to co-operate on the project, which requires a minimum $100mn investment. The billionaire also seeks to create a new joint-stock company with a starting capital of $100mn 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. “It would help me much and what I need from them is the approval to get the refugees there and the administrative support,” in terms of customs and passport control as well as a small unit for security.
While acknowledging that he is willing to spend up to $200 million on the purchase, the TV tycoon praised the strong response from volunteers and investors that are willing to help the noble cause.