A Silicon Valley mogul wants to create a new country to house the world’s refugees

Refugee camps are overflowing around the world.
Refugee camps are overflowing around the world.
Image: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen
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The number of refugees in the world is growing, now at an all-time high of nearly 60 million people. As wars and persecution continue to rage, refugee camps can’t keep up, and more and more people make the dangerous, often deadly journey to find a better life—especially since donor aid is insufficient and resettlement is painfully slow.

There are few ideas to comprehensively address the epic crisis—which is why an unusual proposition from Silicon Valley real estate mogul Jason Buzi is garnering attention despite its utopian pretensions. (h/t Washington Post). Simply put, Buzi wants to create an entirely new country to house all of the world’s refugees. In his manifesto, published on a polished website for his Refugee Nation project, he writes: “It is time for a radical solution. It is time for big ideas. The status quo is no longer acceptable!”

Jason Buzi is an Israeli-born, US-raised millionaire investor who came into the national spotlight last year when he organized “Hidden Cash,” a scavenger hunt which sent people on a frenzied hunt for wads of cash stashed around San Francisco and New York. His new project is much bigger:

“Today 195 sovereign countries are recognized around the world. And we need one more . . . a country which any refugee, from anywhere in the world, can call home. Where each has the same legal rights to reside, work, pursue an education, have a family, buy and sell property, start a business, like any of us. Where everyone is an equal citizen, regardless of ethnic background, religious affiliation, or any other personal status. A completely inclusive and compassionate nation, in which every refugee is automatically granted citizenship.”

He offers some specific solutions for his grandiose idea. The state would be a pluralist, capitalist democracy, with a “strong work culture” and not a “culture of benefits.” Drawing on his real-estate experience, he emphasizes the importance of “location, location, location,” and suggests that the state could be formed on one of the world’s less-inhabited islands, merged with an existing state such as Dominica, carved out of an European enclave or based on a newly built island. The funding could come from the world’s richest individuals, states, international organizations or corporations. Its language would be English.

Experts who spoke to the Washington Post about the idea were sympathetic yet skeptical, admiring his moral outrage but warning that, for instance, people want to choose where to live.

“This proposal may be ridiculed or attacked by some, but hopefully is not ignored. It should be vigorously debated, because the world needs a solution to this staggering humanitarian crisis,” writes Buzi. His proposal may be naive, but it’s hard to disagree with that sentiment.