With no sustainable solution for Europe’s migrant crisis in sight, an Egyptian billionaire has stepped forward with a plan of his own. He has offered to buy an island in the Mediterranean to shelter refugees fleeing Syria and other conflict-torn regions until they can safely return to their home countries.
Telecom magnate Naguib Sawiris, said to be worth $2.9 billion, first posted the suggestion on Twitter this week.
“Of course it’s feasible,” Sawiris told Agence France-Presse when pressed about his island plan. “You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees.”
Sawiris said an island off Greece or Italy would cost between $10 million and $100 million.
It’s unclear if the governments of these two countries are considering Sawiris’ proposal.
In the past week, several harrowing images and stories have served as bleak reminders of the staggering human toll of Europe’s migrant crisis: a 3-year-old Syrian boy lying dead in the sand; hundreds of desperate migrants clashing with Hungarian police; dozens of dead refugees found in the back of a truck in Austria.
Humanitarian groups have called for European nations to act swiftly and compassionately to address the crisis. The continent, however, has remained divided on the issue.
“I have never seen as many unresolved, complex, humanitarian disasters, with no short-term or medium-term prospect to end them,” William Swing, head of the International Organization for Migration, told the Wall Street Journal this week.
To fill this void, communities and individuals like Sawiris have been coming forward with their own solutions.
Thousands of Icelanders, for instance, offered to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes after the government reportedly capped the number of Syrian migrants at 50.
A German website that’s been described as an “Airbnb for refugees” has also seen a surge of people offering up their homes to migrants in need. The site, called Refugees Welcome, reportedly has over 800 German hosts. There are talks that spin-offs of the site will soon be launched in other countries across Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 2,600 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe this year. Another 1,800 are reportedly missing.
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