Stranded Syrian refugee arrives in Canada after months-long ordeal

Stranded Syrian refugee arrives in Canada after months-long ordeal
Hassan al-Kontar gained thousands of followers afer tweeting about his daily routine in Terminal 2 of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
2 min read
28 November, 2018
Kontar was stranded at a Malaysia airport since 7 March [Twitter]

A Syrian refugee who spent several months in limbo in a budget terminal at a Malaysian airport has landed in Vancouver.

Hassan al-Kontar's plight became widely known after he shared posts on social media that showed him surviving on donated airline meals, washing and giving himself a haircut in the toilets at Kuala Lumpur International Airport's Terminal 2.

He had been stuck since March - blocked from entering Malaysia because of visa issues and barred from travelling to other countries, and was detained last month by immigration officials. On Tuesday, his lawyer said Kontar had been granted permanent residency by Canada.

"I know I look like someone who ran from the stone, middle ages. I'm sorry for that" the smiling 36-year-old said in a Twitter video Monday, looking tired and stroking his bushy beard. 

"For the last eight years, it was hard, long journey. The last ten months, it was very hard and cold."

Malaysian officials earlier said they were going to work with Syrian authorities to deport him back to his war-torn homeland.

But his lawyer Andrew Brouwer said they brought Kontar directly to the Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday before he was put on a Vancouver-bound flight.

Brouwer said his client was recognised by Canada as a refugee and was granted permanent residency under the country's refugee sponsorship programme.

Kontar's journey was sponsored by the Canada Caring Society, whose online petition reached 62,000 signatures, and the British Columbia Muslim Association. Volunteers and supporters welcomed him at the airport.

Kontar is not the only asylum seeker who has been left in limbo at an airport for a long period of time.

In 2015 an Iraqi family spent more than two months in an empty smoking cubicle in a Moscow airport, relying on passengers to bring them food and water.

Millions of Syrians have fled a devastating seven-year civil war that has left more than 350,000 people dead.