Monday 5 December 2016

Egypt tycoon in talks to buy Greek islands for refugees

David Kearns

Published 15/09/2015 | 16:30

Naguib Sawiris
Naguib Sawiris

An Egyptian billionaire who offered to buy a Mediterranean island to provide refugees with “decent living conditions” is in talks to purchase two private Greek islands.

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TV tycoon Naguib Sawiris, whose fortune is worth an estimated €2.6 billion, has “identified two privately owned Greek islands that constitute a good opportunity for the project,” said a statement from his office.

“We have corresponded with the owners and expressed our interest to go into negotiation[s] with them.”

The statement went on to clarify the islands, if purchased, would still “fall under Greece's jurisdiction.”

Mr Sawiris claims the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has offered to co-operate on the project, which requires a minimum €88 million investment.

The third richest man in Africa has promoted the idea of “Aylan Island,” named in memory of Aylan Kurdi a three-year-old Syrian toddler who washed up on a Turkish beach after drowning while trying to reach Europe.

In an interview with Newsweek, the billionaire said his letters to the Italian prime minister and his Greek counterpart had yet to be acknowledged.

“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.

Besides helping out refugees, Mr Sawiris believes buying a Mediterranean island from Greece would greatly aid austerity stricken Athens.

Aylan Kurdi (L) and his brother Galip - two Syrian toddlers who drowned with their mother and several other migrants as they tried to reach Greece Credit: Kurdi family via Reuters
Aylan Kurdi (L) and his brother Galip - two Syrian toddlers who drowned with their mother and several other migrants as they tried to reach Greece Credit: Kurdi family via Reuters

“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 favor, that is giving [Greece] the money anyhow,” Sawiris told Newsweek.

“So it would look good that they are helping a humanitarian idea. It would be saving the EU from a burden and helping to do something [about the refugee crisis].”

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