Hassan al Kontar tweeted a video en route to Canada, saying how happy he was. Pic: Hassan Al Kontar/Twittter


A Syrian refugee who was forced to spend seven months in a Malaysian airport has been granted asylum by Canada.

Hassan al Kontar landed in Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon, UK time, having been in limbo at Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s budget terminal since March.

The 36-year-old’s plight has been followed by people around the world after he shared posts on social media of his life in the airport, surviving on donated airline meals, washing and giving himself a haircut in the bathrooms.

He was blocked from entering Malaysia due to visa issues but was barred from travelling to other countries.

Last month the former insurance marketing manager was detained by immigration officials who said they wanted to deport him back to his war-torn homeland, which he last visited in 2008.

Image:
He had been stuck in Kuala Lumpur airport for the past 37 days, living off airline food and sleeping in the terminal

But Canadian volunteers fought for him to gain asylum and on Monday officials brought him back to the airport he spent seven months in to get on a flight to Canada via Taiwan.

Arriving in Vancouver, he was greeted by Laurie Cooper, who with the help of fellow residents from Whistler ski resort and the British Muslim Association, brought him to Canada and raised nearly $15,000 (£8,865) for a fresh start.

“I’ve done my time in airports, no more airports,” he told CBC.

Looking at Mrs Cooper, he said: “When I was thinking of hope, her face was coming to my mind.”

He was then taken to Whistler where accommodation, fresh clothes and a hotel job await him – he whispered to himself: “I will be fine.”

While in transit in Taiwan he posted a video on Twitter, saying: “I know I look like someone who ran from the stone, middle ages. I’m sorry for that.

“For the last eight years, it was a hard, long journey. The last 10 months, it was very hard and cold.”

He thanked his supporters, his family and his lawyer, Andrew Brouwer, who said his client was recognised by Canada as a refugee and has been granted permanent residency under its refugee sponsorship programme.

Hassan al Kontar was not allowed into Malaysia but also not allowed on a plane. Pic: Hassan Al Kontar/Twitter
Image:
He was not allowed into Malaysia but also not allowed on a plane. Pic: Hassan Al Kontar/Twitter

“We were of course very pleased that Malaysia appeared to agree and abide by international law,” Mr Brouwer said.

Hundreds of Mr al Kontar’s supporters sent their congratulations to him.

Malaysia’s immigration office said it had held talks “on the basis of concern and humanity…with the embassy of the country that agreed to receive his relocation,” without naming Canada.

Mr al Kontar added: “I could not do it without the support and the prayers from all of you.”

He follows in the foosteps of an Iraqi family who spent more than two months in 2015 in an empty smoking cubicle in a Moscow airport, relying on passengers to bring them food and water.

It also bears a resemblance to the 2004 Tom Hanks film The Terminal, in which he plays a man stuck in a New York airport after his government collapses, rendering his papers useless.



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