The Egyptian billionaire who bankrolled the launch of Wind Mobile in Canada wants to buy a Mediterranean island to house refugees, and name it after Alan Kurdi, the boy whose drowning death captured the world’s attention in recent weeks.
Naguib Sawiris, the tenth-richest person in Africa, has been tweeting at the Italian and Greek governments, asking them to sell him an island.
Sawiris’ plan is to buy an island, declare its independence and allow refugees to build a new country there.
The “main thing is investment in infrastructure,” Sawiris said, as quoted at Reuters. He told AFP he envisions "temporary shelters to house the people, then … employing the people to build housing, schools, universities, hospitals. ... And if things improve, whoever wants to go back (to their homeland) goes back.”
Sawiris says he formally made his offer to Greece and Italy on Monday. Neither country showed any interest in his plan when he started campaigning for it on social media last week.
"All I am asking is find me an island, I will make the financial payment for it," Sawiris said. “Enough is enough…. These people are being treated in the end like cattle."
The Syrian refugee crisis has become an issue in Canada’s election, after it was reported last week that Alan Kurdi’s family had apparently hoped to join family in British Columbia.
The Conservatives have committed to taking 10,000 refugees over the next three years, but the Liberal Party and the NDP have both called for Canada to take in more people fleeing the four-year-long war in Syria.
The NDP are calling for the government to take in 46,000 refugees by 2019, including 10,000 this year. The Liberals want to take in 25,000 refugees through direct sponsorship by the Canadian government.
Sawiris, who is billed as the tenth-richest person in Africa, bankrolled the launch of Wind Mobile in Canada in 2009, through the holding company he owned, Orascom.
But he quickly came to regret launching a wireless provider in Canada, telling the CBC in 2011 it was a “bad idea.”
In 2013, Sawiris tried to buy Toronto-based telecom Allstream through his company Accelero Holdings. The federal government rejected the purchase on national security grounds.
Sawiris called the decision “a farce” and declared that he is “finished with Canada.”
Wind Mobile has changed ownership since its launch. It’s operated by Globalive, which is owned by a group of Canadian and U.S. investors. The wireless company has no links to Sawiris’ holding companies, despite its keeping the Wind Mobile brand.
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