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Shower, cups of coffee await Syrian refugee stuck at airport for 7 months

November 30, 2018 10:33 IST
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37-year-old Hassan Al Kontar has finally been granted asylum in Canada where he will begin his new life.

Dreams do come true! Hassan Al Kontar hugs one of the people who helped in getting his request for asylum in Canada. Al Kontar was stuck at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport since March 7. Photograph: Laurie Cooper/Facebook

Remember the Syrian refugee who has been stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for months?

After months of pleas and requests Hassan Al Kontar, the 37-year-old, has finally been granted asylum and permanent residency in Canada.

When asked what he will do, the Syrian was quoted by CNN Canada as saying, “On my first days of freedom, I want to enjoy the fresh air and walk on the streets of Vancouver as much as I can. I’ll take hot showers and a cup coffee with friends.”


For those who don’t remember, Al Kontar had originally been working as an insurance manager in the United Arab Emirates until they declined to renew his visa.

Kontar with Laurie Cooper who helped get him a home. The Syrian will live with Cooper in British Columbia, Canada. Photograph: Laurie Cooper/Facebook

He then tried to stay in Malaysia, but an unexpected flight cancellation caused his 3-month work permit to expire.

He even made it to Cambodia in a bid to avoid deportation back to Syria, but he arrived at the country only to be sent back to the Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Since leaving the airport would result in his deportation, he had no choice but to live in the “arrivals” section until he found a country that would accept him.

While stranded, Al Kontar created a fan base on Twitter, documenting his gruelling time at the airport he has been stranded at since March 7. He shared short videos and pictures, where he slept, how he ate, and even where he “exercised”.

Kontar garnered international headlines with his experiences of living at the airport. Using wit, he spoke of the ways he spent time at the terminal, all alone. He captioned this post, "Winter is coming & it looks like winter will be here before I leave this airport, Maesters says it will be the hardest in 1000 years so I need to make myself ready." Photograph: @Kontar81/Twitter

Kontar’s video diaries got international attention, and thousands of people began following his near-daily updates.

One of those who saw his videos was Laurie Cooper from Whistler, British Columbia. Moved by his plight, Cooper along with some of her friends petitioned Canada's immigration minister to admit Kontar as a refugee.

Through a crowd funding campaign, they raised the US$13,600 required for citizens to privately sponsor a refugee for resettlement. Then they waited to see if his application would be approved.

For those wondering how Kontar spent his time at the airport, here's one example: Him cutting his airport at one of the bathroom's at the terminal. Photograph: @Kontar81/Twitter

But, finally on Sunday (November 25), he landed in Canada after his papers were approved and he was granted asylum.

The Syrian’s happiness knows no bounds. He was quoted as saying, “I’ve arrived and I still can’t believe it. I couldn’t sleep out of the excitement. I have a job waiting for me in a hotel so I’m going to start working as soon as I manage to get some rest. I realised there’s a moment in life when the real life can be more amazing and beautiful than the dreams themselves.”

Kontar with his 'garden' and 'pets' at the airport. Photograph: @Kontar81/Twitter

Recalling his peculiar experience, Kontar told CNN that it changed his perspective on life, as extremely difficult as it was: “Giving up is not an option, it’s a result in not believing in what you’re doing, not being allowed in what you’re doing, not trying enough.

“When the airplane touched the ground, and I saw Laurie, I got all I wanted,” he adds, “I have everything now, finally I can relax and enjoy the moment. I can feel the light after the darkness.”

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