Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has proposed buying an island off Greece or Italy in order to shelter migrants fleeing from Syria and other countries.
The idea was first suggested by Sawiris on his official Twitter account on Tuesday before he reiterated it once more in a TV interview a day later.
“Greece or Italy sell me an island, grant it independence; host the migrants and provide jobs for them to build their new country,” Sawiris wrote on his Twitter account.
The tweet soon went viral with some people questioning the seriousness of the offer.
“No sane person with integrity would look at the news and decide not to take action,” Sawiris said in the TV interview on privately owned CBC channel on Wednesday.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR announced that more than 2,500 people have died so far this year trying to flee their countries’ violent conflicts to cross the Mediterranean.
Sawiris confirmed that his offer is serious, and that he is planning to address the prime ministers of Italy and Greece in order to discuss the proposal and its details.
He suggested that the migrants would build the “new city”, including universities and housing, until resolutions are reached in their home countries. He added that the migrants would still be able to return home if they want to.
“This is a solution for them to be treated without humiliation because the way it is now they’re being treated and used like cattle,” he said.
Sawiris cited the 32,000 strong El Gouna, a resort town that his family developed on the Red Sea in Egypt, as an example of a “desert land that he turned habitable."
In 2014, Naguib Sawiris was listed as the third wealthiest men in Egypt with a fortune of $2.8 billion up from $2.5 billion in 2013.
He is the 609th richest person in the world, and the 11th in Africa.