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Man trapped at Malaysian airport for seven months finally free


Man trapped at Malaysian airport for seven months finally free

Man trapped at Malaysian airport for seven months finally free

For seven months, Hassan al-Kontar was trapped in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Now he’s free thanks to a crowdfunding campaign.

Syrian refugee Hassan al-Kontar, 37, who works in insurance marketing, had been stuck in Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 since March.

Stranded in Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he slept under stairwells and lived off leftover chicken-and-rice dinners from AirAsia flights. He documented his daily life in video diaries that he posted on Twitter, drawing comparisons to Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal.

Kontar left his home in Syria for the United Arab Emirates in 2006 to avoid being conscripted into mandatory military service. Then in 2011, civil war broke out and the Syrian government refused to renew his passport. Kontar feared that if he returned to Syria, he would be forced to join the military or thrown in jail. “I’m not a killing machine and I don’t want any part in destroying Syria,” he told the BBC. “I don’t want blood on my hands.”

After his passport expired, Kontar’s work permit, too, became invalid. After working illegally for several years, he was arrested and told to leave the country. He flew to Malaysia – one of the few places Syrians are able to chance getting a visa – en route to South America where he hoped to find work, but was denied entry, returned to Malaysia where again refused a visa – now out of money and little other option, he made the terminal his home. 

Supporters of his journey followed his regular updates of a life stranded in an airport terminal on social media. 

Among them was Laurie Cooper, a complete stranger living in Whistler, Canada, who, along with a group of friends, petitioned Canada’s immigration minister to admit Kontar as a refugee.

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

A few months later, a new video appeared at the top of his Twitter feed for the first time in months. Once again, Kontar was at the airport. This time, though, he had a destination.

On Twitter, he shared of himself landing in Vancouver, Canada, in the early hours of Tuesday morning (local time), thanking his family, friends and lawyers in helping him leave the airport.

“I’ve done my time in airports, no more airports,” he said, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “I’d rather use a horse if there’s no car.”

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