Syrian 'terminal man' detained at Malaysia airport reappears in video en route to Canada

Syrian 'terminal man' detained at Malaysia airport reappears in video en route to Canada
3 min read
26 November, 2018
A Syrian man who was stranded at a Malaysian airport for nearly seven months has reappeared on social media after being arrested in October.
Hassan al-Kontar was detained by Malaysian authorities in October [Twitter]

A Syrian man who was stranded at a Malaysian airport for more than six months has reappeared on social media, almost two months after he was detained by Malaysian authorities in early October.

Hassan al-Kontar, a 36-year-old native of Suweida in southern Syria, posted a video on Twitter telling his supporters that he was en route to Canada.

The video follows weeks of concern about the Syrian national's safety, as he was threatened with deportation back to Syria, where he faces military conscription or jail.

"I know I look like someone who ran from the stone or middle ages, I'm also sorry for not being in touch for the last two months," al-Kontar said in the video, in which he is sporting a thick, unshaven beard.

"For today I am in Taiwan International Airport, for tomorrow I will be reaching my final destination - Vancouver, Canada," he added, without divulging further details about his detention in Malaysia. 

Kontar lived in Kuala Lumpur International Airport for nearly seven months, after he was denied entry into Malaysia after overstaying his visa.

Kontar was working in the UAE in 2011, and was unable to renew his passport. With war at home, he was forced to stay in the country illegally until he was arrested by Emirati authorities in 2016.

He obtained a new passport and entered Malaysia, one of the few countries to give Syrians visas on arrival.

However, Kuala Lumpur does not grant asylum status to Syrians and views them those who outstay their visas as illegal migrants with few or no legal protections. 

He was turned back after trying to board a plane to Turkey as his passport had expired.

Kontar then went to Cambodia but was sent back to Malaysia but was again denied entry. 

Stranded in the Malaysian capital's airport, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to seek asylum in a number of countries, including Cambodia and Ecuador.

However, during his wait in the KLIA terminal, activists worked on getting him asylum in Canada.

Kontar's arrest in October prompted prompted outrage from human rights groups and international bodies, including the United Nations.

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees reportedly contacted Kuala Lumpur to prevent al-Kontar's deportation.

Despite appearing dishevelled, al-Kontar spoke with a ttone of relief that contrasted his earlier posts, in which he appeared increasingly wearied by the uncertainty of his situation.

"For the last eight years it was a hard, long journey. For the last ten months it was very hard, cold," he said in Monday's tweet.

"I could not do it without the help, support and prayers of all of you. I could not do it without my family, my Canadian friends' family and my lawyer… Thank you all, I love you all, I will keep you updated."

In signing off from the video, the Suweida native promised to keep his followers updated and added a reminder

"Lets keep the prayers for all those who need it the most, those who are still in refugee camps all over the world."