Egyptian billionaire offers to buy an island from Greece or Italy to house refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.
CAIRO, EGYPT (SEPTEMBER 6, 2015) (REUTERS) – Disturbed by images of a drowned Syrian toddler washed up on shore, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has urged the prime ministers of Italy and Greece on Sunday (September 6) to allow him to buy an island to house refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.
“Today two DHLs went out to the prime minister of Italy and the prime minister of Greece. All what I am asking is find me an island I will make the financial payment for it,” said Sawiris.
“Enough is enough. Two pictures. The picture of the young child on the beach and also the pictures from Hungary, how these people are being treated in the end, like cattle.”
Shocking images of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up dead on a Turkish beach, sharpened focus on large-scale refugee disaster unfolding across Europe and prompted outrage over the perceived failure of developed nations to protect the desperate.
Sawiris blasted Western countries, accusing them of creating conditions that triggered an exodus to Europe and then failing to take decisive action to create stability.
The Egyptian businessman said measures such as sending U.S. military trainers to Iraq and American-led airstrikes against Islamic State targets are too little too late and called on Western leaders to help end civil war in Syria.
“Now all the politicians in the West and Mr. Obama specifically — they say ‘we had a bad experience in Iraq so we will not repeat this again’ but yes you messed up Iraq,” Sawiris told Reuters in an interview.
“We send 300 trainers to Iraq to run some planes which are more or less doing sight-seeing. It is a ridiculous reaction.”
Sawiris, chairman and chief executive of Orascom Telecom, Media and Technology, said people from around the world had written to him in support after he first expressed his desire to buy an island in a tweet.
He was encouraged by this but concerned about the spread of Islamic State, which will likely create more refugees.
The group’s bombing attacks have also damaged Egypt’s economy already battered by political turmoil since an uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
“Look at the tourism industry, totally devastated. We don’t have any foreign currency anymore,” he said.
“They destroy jobs. One man with a rifle destroyed the economy of Tunisia. One guy.”
He was referring to a gunman who killed 38 foreign holidaymakers in Tunisia in June in an attack claimed by Islamic State, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Sawiris accused the West of being too soft on militancy.
“The way we are going to confront these people is unacceptable. You kill, you get killed. Nothing else.”
Sawiris, from a powerful Coptic Christian family, said he had received threats from groups like Islamic State. Police arrested militants who had his name written on a document, he said.
But he has no plans to leave Egypt.