Haitians take up Senegal's offer

Back in January, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade offered free land to Haitians displaced by their country's disastrous earthquake. The plan was eventually scaled back to free housing and today, the first group of Haitian students took him up on the offer

The 163 students will also be offered scholarships in a nation where the campus of Senegal's largest university is frequently paralyzed by strikes because scholarships are paid late.

The students were greeted upon arrival in Dakar by dancers and traditional praise singers. Dozens of Senegalese students also held up signs that said: "Welcome to the home of your ancestors." They were led onto tour buses that drove them through the neighborhood of Almadies, the westernmost point of Africa which juts out into the Atlantic.

The bus climbed a hill overlooking the ocean, and let them out at the feet of an enormous statue pointing West in the direction where they had come from.

"Your ancestors left here by physical force," Wade told the students. "You have returned through moral force ... When the slaves embarked on the ships, this is the last piece of African earth they saw ... Dear students, it is on this point of land that sticks out farthest into the Atlantic that we have chosen to receive you," he said. "You are neither strangers nor refugees. You are members of our family."

The project has gotten mixed reviews at home, where university scholarships are often hard to come by and thousands of Senegalese try to immigrate to Europe every year in search of economic opportunity. But there is a strong case to be made that allowing Haitians to migrate,  even to a country that's struggling itself, is a more effective way of helping the country than sending aid. The octagenerian Wade's offer may be a vanity project meant to cement his legacy as an international statesman, but it's a more productive one than some his others. 

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images


World's tallest building still 90 percent unoccupied

Looking for a pied-a-terre on the Persian Gulf? The owners of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, are getting desperate

Rents for luxury apartments in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, have been slashed by as much as 40 percent after the owners failed to find tenants, according to a broker that’s marketing the homes.

The cost of renting a studio with floor-to-ceiling windows, marble and wooden floors has dropped to 6,666 dirhams ($1,815) a month, while a one-bedroom apartment is available for 10,000 dirhams, Better Homes said. Two-bedroom homes are going for 15,833 dirhams.

Nine months after Burj Khalifa was inaugurated with a water-and-firework display, about 825 of the tower’s 900 apartments remain unoccupied, said Laura Adams, a residential sales and leasing adviser at Dubai-based Better Homes.

Any takers? Some adventerous Passport reader out there must want to live 2,000 feet in the air with no neighbors.