By Reuters |
A Syrian man who spent seven months stranded in a Malaysian airport arrived in Canada this week, ending a months-long ordeal that highlighted asylum seekers’ often bizarre quest for refuge.
Hassan Al Kontar got stuck in Kuala Lumpur International Airport in March after his Malaysian tourist visa expired and he was not allowed to board a flight to another country.
Kontar, 37, who left Syria before that country’s civil war erupted in 2011, had worked in the United Arab Emirates for several years but had to leave after his visa ran out. He said he could not return to his homeland because he refused to serve in the military.
During his months in Terminal 2 of the Kuala Lumpur airport, he lived off airline meals while trying to find a country that would give him a visa and documenting his travails to thousands of followers online.
He showed himself knitting, and celebrated when the sun peeked through the window or when, momentarily, a few fluorescent lights went off.
Documenting his ordeal “was a need,” he told Reuters by phone on Tuesday, because people “are in the dark when it comes to the refugee crisis.”
His plight caught the eye of Canadians who sought to privately sponsor him as a refugee.
“When we noticed he had this issue, he was stranded in the Malaysian airport and no place to go, nobody is accepting him, I offered: ‘We have space. We can bring him in to sponsor him,’” said Shawkat Hassan, with British Columbia’s Muslim Association, which helped sponsor Kontar.