A Syrian refugee who was stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for seven months has finally been granted asylum in Canada. The 37-year-old man, Hassan al Kontar, arrived at the Malaysian airport on 7 March seeking asylum, and was forced to live there after he refused to return to his home country.

Travel News - Hassan al Kontar
Hassan al Kontar lived in an airport for seven months.

His reason for not wanting to return to Syria was that he feared he would be arrested or made to join the military. His plight garnered global attention when it was discovered that he was living in the arrivals area of the airport and subsisting on food donated by airline staff. His plight arose because he had been working as a marketing manager in the insurance industry in the United Arab Emirates when war broke out in Syria in 2011.


Having not been back to Syria since 2008, he says the Syrian Embassy would not renew his passport because he had not completed military service at home. As a result, his work permit could also not be renewed so he stayed on illegally in the UAE and was homeless and jobless, but was arrested in 2016.


He managed to get a two-year passport in 2017, but was deported to Malaysia, a country that grants Syrians visa-free entry on arrival. He was given a three-month tourist visa, and when that expired, his airport ordeal began. He updated his situation via Twitter, and photos showed him knitting, exercising and taking care of his plants in the airport.


An asylum application to Canada typically takes up to 26 months to process, but Hassan's lawyer. Andrew Brouwer, explained that advocacy and behind-the-scenes work helped to expedite it, meaning that he could enter Canada. He has now arrived in Vancouver, where his new life will begin.


"It was a unique and very difficult situation. We are really grateful to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and to the Canadian officials who worked so hard to resolve Hassan’s predicament," says Canada Caring Society volunteer, Laurie Cooper.


You can check out Hassan's Twitter account here.

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