In Brief

Syrian refugee granted asylum after living in Malaysian airport for seven months

Hassan al-Kontar captured his time in the airport over social media, where thousands watched

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After spending seven months stuck in a Mayalsian airport, a Syrian refugee has been granted asylum to live in Canada.

Hassan al-Kontar touched down in Vancouver on Monday night, where he was greeted by representatives of the two organisations that sponsored him to come to Canada as a refugee, the British Columbia Muslim Association and Canada Caring Society. 

“I did not believe it until they showed me the ticket”, Kontar said to CBC News Canada when he arrived. “I said until I reach Canada, nothing is sure.”

Kontar had been working in insurance and living the United Arab Emirates for five years when war broke out in Syria in 2011. He could not renew his passport because he had not completed his military service at home, BBC reports, but he did not want to return to Syria. Therefore, he continued to live illegally in the UAE. 

“I am a human being and I don’t consider it right to participate in war”, Kontar said to BBC in April.

In 2016, he was arrested and the following year, he managed to get a new passport but was deported to Malaysia, a country which grants Syrians visa-free entry. Kontar had three months on his visa, and after it expired he tried to leave for Turkey, but was not allowed to board the Turkish Airways plane. He then went to Cambodia, but was sent back to Malaysia where he spent months stuck in the airport.  

Kontar documented his daily existence on his Twitter account, which has amassed thousands of followers and allowed people all over the world to hear about his case.

During his months in the airport, he passed the time by knitting, turning the airport walkway into a makeshift treadmill, and living off extra aeroplane meals offered to him by airport employees.

In Canada, he will be staying in Whistler, a small town in British Columbia. He has been offered a full-time job at a hotel. He will initially be living with his sponsors until he can afford his own place.

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