Egyptian billionaire offers to buy an island for refugees

An Egyptian billionaire has offered a plan to help ease the pressure on European nations facing a crush of refugees seeking asylum: He'll buy them an island of their own.

Naguib Sawiris has offered to buy an island for refugees, either from Italy or Greece, calling it in a Twitter post last Tuesday a "Crazy idea … Maybe but at least temporary until they can return to their countries."

Sawiris is the chairman of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, an international telecommunications company headquartered in Cairo. With a net worth of $3.8 billion, he is also Egypt's third-richest man. 

"It's a very simple solution," Sawiris told CNN. "They [Italy or Greece] sell the island. I'll create a temporary shelter for these people. I'll make a small port and a marina for the boats to land there.  

"Then once this is done they'll have the choice either to go back to this country, or stay on this island."

Sawiris has suggested that he could pay the refugees to build their own houses, schools and hospitals.

"I am serious with my intentions," Sawiris told Forbes magazine. "I want to feel good about having done something good. Provide me with the island and I will do the rest."

On Saturday, Sawiris returned to Twitter saying he had been inspired by the death of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey with his brother and mother, and planned to name the island after him.

By the next day, he had crafted a hashtag for his endeavour, #AylanIsland, and has begun asking for volunteers to help him build on the island once he's purchased it. 

The hashtag is filled with supporters of his campaign, from people looking to volunteer to those wishing him the best. 

So far, he's had at least one offer. Muad Mohamad Zaki has offered to sell him his island in the Maldives, though it might be a little small for the tens of thousands of refugees pouring into Europe. 

"If he is interested he can use our island … though it's only 9.1 hectares," he told VICE News. He said that he has emailed Sawiris but has yet to hear a response.