A number of Egyptians are criticizing local businessman and politician Najeeb Sawiris for his offer to purchase an island in order to house refugees. They say that he should first improve conditions in Egypt, 40 percent of whose population is below the poverty line.
The billionaire quickly responded to the claims. Appearing on the private TV station CBC, he said, "I have not lagged behind in serving Egypt. My offer for refugees is purely humanitarian. God has saved us from the rule of the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood]. Had the Ikhwan remained in power, we would have met the same fate of the refugees."
Sawiris first suggested the project on Twitter last week, saying that he wishes to purchase an island from Greece in order to provide homes and work for displaced persons, primarily from Syria. "Greece is experiencing a financial problem and has abandoned vast islands," he explained. "It is possible that a new town can be built there for the Syrian refugees until the crisis in their country is solved."
Sawiris has said that he will name the island "Alan," after the drowned Syrian child whose picture has been spread around the world. Thousands of such people have died in recent months while trying to escape to Europe.
The Syrian refugees represent that largest displaced population since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Authorities expect there to be over 4 million Syrian refugees by the end of the year.