Tags: naguib sawiris | island | syrian | refugees

Naguib Sawiris' Island for Syrian Refugees Beckons in Aegean Sea

Image: Naguib Sawiris' Island for Syrian Refugees Beckons in Aegean Sea
Greek islands sit in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. (Brian Chase/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 20 Nov 2015 11:10 AM

Naguib Sawiris, one of the richest men in Africa, dreams of buying an island to be a home for Syrian refugees and he's optimistic that others will help make it come true.

The Egyptian billionaire, who amassed a fortune running Orascom Media Telecom & Technology, tweeted back in September that he would be interested in buying an island in Greece or Italy to be a safe haven for refugees, Forbes reported. 

The idea has not foundered in recent months, and a spokesperson for Sawiris recently told Forbes things are looking good. "But due to the delicacy of the issue he has not disclosed specific reasons for his optimism," he said in an email.

The spokesperson told Forbes that Sawiris has identified two private Greek islands that would work as what he dubbed Aylan Island, so-named to honor the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up in Turkey. The Greek government is considering Sawiris's wish to buy one of the islands.

"I actually must admit, it's the picture of Aylan that woke me up. It was a very touching picture. In addition to that, the way these pictures were coming out of Hungary, the way these refugees were being treated by the authorities there, and being, you know, beaten and put into the trains and buses, I mean it was just too much," Sawiris told CNN in September. "This was the moment of what I said - I mean I cannot just sit like that and just do nothing, you know, and pretend it's not my problem…" 

In September, Sawiris announced that he had a team of people who were starting to organize volunteers into "areas of expertise" to determine the best way to transport and house refugees, calling his vision a joint-stock company in which people could invest, Forbes said.

It is an unusual set-up for the proposed island refuge, one expert said.

"The idea of creating a joint-stock company for a charitable purpose is very strange, if not bizarre," Melissa Berman of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors told Forbes. "In other circumstances like this people create a charitable trust or charitable organization, then if the original purpose isn’t workable you use those resources for a nonprofit purpose."


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Naguib Sawiris, one of the richest men in Africa, dreams of buying an island to be a home for Syrian refugees and he's optimistic that others will help make it come true.
naguib sawiris, island, syrian, refugees
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2015-10-20
Friday, 20 Nov 2015 11:10 AM
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