Syrian refugee Hassan Al Kontar was arrested on Monday by Malaysian police for remaining in a “forbidden area” of Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s terminal two.
Al Kontar, 37, had been living inside KLIA’s domestic transfer lounge since March, after being denied entry to Cambodia and sent back to Malaysia.
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The Syrian refused to seek asylum in Malaysia and decided to remain at the airport. Many view this move as a protest against Malaysia’s arbitrary detention of refugees and it not being a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.
Al Kontar turned to social media to share his story of a life in limbo.
He first arrived in Malaysia in October 2017 after being deported from the United Arab Emirates, where he had lived for 11 years, avoiding Syria’s devastating war and compulsory military service.
Al Kontar pleaded with UAE authorities to be sent to Malaysia, one of the few countries that allow Syrians to obtain visas on arrival.
Six months in an airport
He overstayed his Malaysian tourist visa last March and paid a penalty fee before attempting to depart. Then Al Kontar ended up at KLIA terminal two domestic transfer lounge, where he spent the last six months looking for options.
A group of Canadian volunteers filed a refugee sponsorship application to Canada on Al Kontar’s behalf on April 25, 2018. The processing time for a refugee application to Canada is 23 months and there is no guarantee he will be accepted.
Canada Caring Society started an online petition to call on Canadian Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen to allow Al Kontar to go to Canada on humanitarian grounds until his refugee application can be processed.
Al Kontar has family in Canada and friends and supporters there have found him a job. His Syrian passport expires in January 2019.
Malaysian police transferred Al Kontar to the immigration department. It stated it would contact the Syria embassy to facilitate his deportation from Malaysia.
The UN refugee agency’s Malaysia office is aware of Al Kontar’s arrest but has been unable to comment on specific cases.
Supporters inside Malaysia fear he will be placed in immigration detention until deportation, where conditions have been referred to as “torture-like” by SUHAKAM, Malaysia’s human rights commission.
Al Kontar’s Canadian lawyer Andrew Brouwer was unavailable for comment.