Refugee marooned in airport for 133 days hopes for asylum in Canada
Ryan Flanagan, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2018 9:07AM EDT
Hassan Al Kontar wants nothing more than to be able to leave the airport he’s been calling home since early March.
“I’m so ready for this to be ended,” Al Kontar told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
Al Kontar is a citizen of Syria, although he hasn’t been to that country since he left it during the 2011 civil war to work in the United Arab Emirates. When he refused to return to Syria to join the military, he says, the government refused to renew his passport or his work visa.
He was able to get to Malaysia, but never obtained a permanent visa. With his temporary visa expired, Malaysian authorities won’t let him leave the arrivals area of the Kuala Lumpur airport. He says he has been given two options: finding another country that will issue him a visa or being sent back to Syria.
The resulting four-month ordeal has yet to reach a resolution, although it has resulted in worldwide publicity for Al Kontar, who has been documenting his experiences on Twitter.
2 days before my birthday .— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) July 11, 2018
This is the actual and only gift I am looking and asking for .
Just the basics nothing more #syrian_stuck_at_airport #mystory_Hassan #airport_is_my_home pic.twitter.com/CfDY9Wvah2
He’s received a significant amount of help from people sympathetic to his plight, including from the group of Canadian and American supporters who brought him a mattress – allowing him to sleep below a stairwell, instead of on airport chairs or floors.
While he can’t access the duty-free stores, airport staff bring him coffee and snacks, as well as meals typically meant for passengers.
“The airlines here are providing me with three meals a day. It’s the same meal, three times a day, for the last 133 days,” he says.
Other challenges include difficulty accessing showers and a general lack of privacy, as well as minimal ability to wash his limited wardrobe.
“My clothes are always dirty. It’s annoying me,” he says. “I cannot sleep because of that sometimes.”
When life tries to mock you !!!! this is what I read every day.— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) July 9, 2018
You should consider adding two more words for more precision, everyone can fly "EXCEPT HASSAN"
Can the situation be more ironic !!! #syrian_stuck_at_airport #mystory_Hassan #airport_is_my_home pic.twitter.com/G1yA1FU8xk
Al Kontar, 36, has relatives in Canada. A group of Canadian supporters has raised money to sponsor him to come to Canada as a refugee, but the application process takes more than two years.
An online petition asking the federal government to expedite the application has received more than 30,000 signatures.
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen confirmed that the government had received the request, but could not comment further due to privacy laws.
Al Kontar says his goal is to leave the airport and be “a normal guy like any other guy in the world,” no matter what country he ends up in.
“As long as I still have hope, I’m ready to keep fighting for what is my right as a human,” he says.