Egyptian billionaire's plan to help Syrian refugees gains traction
Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris announced via a Twitter update on Monday (Sept 14) that he had contacted the owners of the islands that he wishes to convert into a temporary home for Syrian refugees.
The 61-year-old had previously expressed interest in acquiring an island off Greece or Italy to aid Syrians fleeing from their war-torn homeland. According to AFP, Mr Sawiris said he would speak to the Greek and Italian authorities about his "feasible" plan.
"You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees," said Mr Sawiris, adding that he would build temporary shelters and employ people to build houses, schools and hospitals on the island.
In the latest update released by his communications office, Mr Sawiris said he had shortlisted two privately-owned Greek islands for his project and approached their owners about it.
"We have corresponded with their owners and expressed interest to go into negotiation with them provided they can acquire the approval of the government of Greece to host the maximum number of refugees possible according to Greek laws," read the statement.
Mr Sawiris is also seeking the Greek government's help to permit the entrance of the refugees to the island.
In addition, he is set to enter talks with the United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR) regarding possible areas of cooperation. According to the statement, Mr Sawiris is open to working with the UNHCR as long as "his idea does not get held back by bureaucracy".
Should his plan materialise, Mr Sawiris intends to name the island he acquires Aylan Island in memory of the three-year old refugee who was pictured lying motionless on a beach.
Sources: The Independent, AFP