Thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war wracking the state die at sea, en route to Europe. Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawaris believes that purchasing a Mediterranean island from Italy or Greece may help save lives and create livelihoods.
As far-fetched as it may sound, would this plan be feasible? Sawaris believes it is. What credentials does he have to make him so confident?
Sawaris is worth approximately $2.9 billion and ranks as the 544th richest person in the world. He is chairman and CEO of Orascom TMT, chairman of the board of Wind Telecomunicazion, and owns a television channel. His position allow him to provide telecommunications services to Africa, the Middle East, and Korea.
It is apparent that this media mogul has the means to install proper infrastructure on any island he plans to buy, which would be vital to its success. He understands this fact, saying “the main thing to invest in is infrastructure”. Sawaris also claims “money is not a problem”. Although it is not built for refugees, Sawaris has built the holiday resort El Gouna on the Red Sea and has experience with construction and urban planning.
However, there are challenges to this plan beyond money. Either Italy or Greece must be willing to sell land in order for it to take off. With Greece in the grips of financial disorder, perhaps they would be more willing to make an agreement, similar to the Louisiana Purchase between the United States and Napoleonic France, only on a smaller scale. An island able to house hundreds of thousands of refugees would cost between $10 to $100 million.
From a legal standpoint, there would also be issues of authority and customs. Sawaris’s proposal includes the possibility of declaring independence and establishing a new – albeit small – island state. With that goal comes a host of problems and more red tape than one can imagine.
Whether this idea could give birth to a new state remains to be unseen. Perhaps the world should subscribe to realism and wait for an island to be bought first before looking too far into the potential future. In any case, if successful, Sawaris can benefit hundreds of thousands of lives that need people like him to help.