Syrian Refugee Who Was Stranded in Malaysia Airport for Months Lands in Canada
A Syrian refugee who was stranded in a Malaysian airport for more than seven months made it to his final destination of Canada on Monday.
Hassan al-Kontar had been stuck in the Kuala Lumpur airport since March. Kontar originally left Syria to avoid compulsory military service and refused to return after the nation’s civil war ignited in 2011. He became stranded in the Malaysian airport months ago while trying to seek asylum (he overstayed his visa), and he could not leave the airport or go to a different country due to travel restrictions placed on Syrian citizens.
So, al-Kontar lived in the airport for seven months, posting videos to social media from the KUL terminal speaking about his ordeal and garnering an international following. In October, al-Kontar was abruptly arrested by Malaysia's immigration authorities, held in a detention center and was reportedly told he would be deported back to Syria.
Then, on Monday, he shared a video that said he was in Taiwan on his way to Vancouver, Canada.
Al-Kontar, 37, was privately sponsored by a group of Canadian citizens who raised money, supported his asylum application and lobbied the Canadian government to bring him to Vancouver. "I did not believe it until they showed me the ticket," he told CBC about the moment officials told him he would be released. "I said until I reach Canada, nothing is sure."
One of the citizens who lobbied on his behalf, Laurie Cooper, told the Guardian that she will be putting al-Kontar up in her guest room in Whistler, Canada.
“I spent the day washing the sheets and making up the bed in my guest room for him,” Cooper said. “It all seemed impossible: I’m a mom who lives in a little log cabin and he was living in an airport.”
Al-Kontar landed late Monday night at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). When he got off the plane, he told reporters he had only a simple request. “For the time being, I need a hot shower for the rest of the day,” he said, according to CBC. “I’ve done my time in airports, no more airports.”