Jason Buzi's Refugee Nation Would Be State for the Stateless, Boondoggle

Millions of people have no place to call home.  wants to give them one.

There are 60 million humans with no place to call home. Europe, Australia, and (arguably) the U.S. are facing refugee crises even as anti-immigration rhetoric ramps up. Even refugees who do manage to find a place to land, like Syrians seeking safety in Turkey, are struggling to survive because they’re unable to work. Jason Buzi, a Bay Area real estate investor, claims to have a solution for this least tractable of problems. His plan is simple: Build a state for the stateless.

Buzi lacks the sort of NGO or “capacity building” experience to get taken seriously in Washington, but he does have a lot of money and a bit of renown, thanks to his Hidden Cash experiment last year. He’s using these resources to promote what he’s dubbed “Refugee Nation,” to the sort of ultra-wealthy investors read to pony up $15,000 for a piece of a big idea.

Though his idea is definitely well-intentioned, Buzi needs to work out the mechanics behind it before it can gain any real traction. First of all, where would he find the space for a new nation? He told The Washington Post that someone in the Philippines has offered to sell him an island, or that “renting” land from countries with small populations might be another option. But even after finding a physical place to call home — and convincing stateless people to come — someone will still have to govern. Buzi admits he hasn’t worked that out yet, but he’s still hopeful, pointing out that multicultural countries tend to be more tolerant.

Refugee experts are, of course, highly skeptical, but Buzi gets points for recognizing the need to solve this problem in a big way. Maybe his optimism stems from the fact that his home country, Israel, was founded as a state for the displaced and continues to thrive today. Unfortunately, its creation also led to massive conflicts with neighboring countries as well as the creation of new refugees.

Given its lack of structure, it’s unlikely that Buzi is going to be the founding father of anything, but he might be asking the right question. When countries refuse to welcome refugees, you can either change minds or start a new country. The problem, of course, is that refugees have a habit of giving birth to citizens and those citizens sometimes want to self govern.

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