A Syrian asylum seeker, who spent nearly seven months living inside a terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, has been arrested by the Malaysian police for remaining in a “forbidden area” at the airport.
Hasan Al Kontar had been stuck inside KLIA's domestic transfer lounge since March 7, 2018.
The 37-year-old was living in the United Arab Emirates when the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. He was reportedly was summoned for military service in his home country, but he refused to join the army. In October 2017, when the Middle Eastern country began his deportation proceedings, Al Kontar asked to be sent to Malaysia instead, as it allowed Syrians to obtain visa on arrival.
“After that I tried to travel twice. First time to Ecuador, but the Turkish Airlines didn’t allow me to board and they cancelled my ticket at the last minute,” Al Kontar told Carbonated.TV in an interview earlier this year. “Then to Cambodia, but the Cambodian authorities sent me back the same day in the same plane.”
He was unable to leave the terminal because he was not permitted to enter Malaysia and he couldn’t return to his war-torn homeland – so he decided to stay at the airport.
It was not easy.
“Normally, I check my mobile first to see if there is any good news. Then I try to solve my temporary daily problems. How to eat. What to eat. How to take a shower,” he said, explaining his routine while stranded at the airport. “It’s a lot of hours. Lot of waiting. Sitting on a chair. Watching the passengers coming out and coming in and traveling.”
After going through all that trouble, the Syrian asylum seeker might be deported to Syria.
“Passengers at the boarding area are supposed to get on their flights but this man did not do so. He is situated in a forbidden zone and we had to take the necessary action,” said Malaysian Immigration Director General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, according to BBC.
Al Kontar, who is currently in detention, will reportedly be questioned by the country’s police before being referred to the immigration department.
“In this case, we will then communicate with the Syrian embassy to facilitate his deportation to his home country,” Mustafar Ali added. “The man claimed that he does not want to return to Syria because he is afraid of becoming a soldier there or whatever his real reason is… But we need to have closure here.”
Al Kontar drew attention of social media users after he began posting videos and photos from his day-to-day life at the Kuala Lumpur airport, sharing a glimpse of his life inside the terminal.
“It’s not my personal story. It’s not how I spend my life, daily life here at the airport. It’s my people’s story. The Turkish airline didn’t allow me to board. The Cambodian sent me back not because of my personal issues as Hassan but because I am holding a piece of document passport says that I am from Syria,” he had said earlier. “Governments are sending us back. So, this is the matter. It’s is a humanitarian case it not a political case. War is not the answer. War is not the solution.”
During those grueling months in the airport, a small beacon of hope appeared in his life in form of a group of Canadian volunteers who approached Al Kontar three months into his stay at the terminal.
Since he had some family there, the Canada Caring Society started an online petition aimed at allowing the Syrian man to enter Canada on humanitarian grounds.
“They reach me by raising the money,” said Al Kontar, referring to the group. “They get me a lawyer, a sponsorship association to submit all the documents.”
The online petition garnered thousands of signatures, but with the latest development in the refugee’s case, things appear to be taking a turn for worse.
“International system has failed us. The international organization has failed us,” Al Kontar told Carbonated.TV in July. “There is a difference between immigrants and refugees. They are treating us like immigrants when we are not. We deserve to live. We deserve the basics, the minimum human rights to be legal somewhere, to be able to work. To have some peace.”
The Syrian national’s current whereabouts are unknown.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Twitter/ Hasan Al Kontar