Egyptian Christian billionaire wants to buy island to shelter 200,000 Mideast refugees

Egyptian Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris says 'I cannot just sit like that and just do nothing, you know, and pretend it's not my problem.'(Twitter/Naguib Sawiris)

Egyptian Christian billionaire and philanthropist Naguib Sawiris couldn't take it anymore.

During an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, Sawiris said his heart breaks every time he sees migrant families getting turned down by border authorities in Europe and forced to deal with hunger, sicknesses, and homelessness all by themselves.

Sawiris said he could not just sit back and relax and do nothing to address the plights faced by refugees.

To show that he cares, the Christian telecom mogul said he plans to buy an island, either in Greece or Turkey, to serve as a haven for refugees.

Sawiris said it was actually the story of Aylan Kurdi, a two-year-old Syrian boy who died while trying to reach freedom with his family, that prompted him to get started on his humanitarian effort.

"I actually must admit, it's the picture of Aylan that woke me up," Sawiris said. "It was a very touching picture. In addition to that, the way these pictures were coming out of Hungary, the way these refugees were being treated by the authorities there, and being, you know, beaten and put into trains and buses, I mean it was just too much."

Sawiris, who has a net worth of around $3 billion, said he has already sent letters to the prime ministers of Greece and Italy, asking them to sell him an island so he can house and employ around 100,000 to 200,000 refugees. He hopes that life in the island will help stabilise the lives of those who have fled from Syria's four-year civil war.

"This war is not going to end in weeks or in months. It may be years even," Sawiris said. "So what do we do with these people meanwhile? I met the minister of interior today and he was telling me that his biggest fear is that the winter is coming. It's going to be snowing and how will they sustain this weather and everything? I mean, we need to move fast."

Sawiris noted that his solution isn't all that simple, since he cannot just take people and put them on an island without first clearing their documents.

"They don't have visas. We need a passport control agency. We need people to check them out. You need their data. You need customs. So the real challenge of the idea is that to have the authorities accept the fact that you will host immigrants there, and specifically Greece has a lot of islands that are for sale and they should offer me an island for sale, but mainly accept that we host these immigrants there," he said.

Should Greece or Italy decide to sell him an island for the refugees, Sawiris said he will name the island after the Syrian boy. "I cannot just sit like that and just do nothing, you know, and pretend it's not my problem," he said.

According to an official UN report, more than 220,000 lives have already been lost and over 12.2 million people "continue to require life-saving aid" since March 2011 when the Syrian conflict began.