Syrian asylum seeker living in Malaysia airport since March arrested and threatened with deportation

The Malaysian authorities have threatened to deport Hassan al-Kontar, who has lived for six months in an airport terminal, after fleeing military conscription in Syria 

Bel Trew
Tuesday 02 October 2018 16:08
Syrian asylum seeker living in Malaysia airport since March arrested and threatened with deportation

A Syrian asylum seeker stuck in transit in Kuala Lumpur airport since March has been arrested by the Malaysian authorities who said he will be deported to his home country.

Hassan al-Kontar, 36, attracted world attention when he started posting videos of his life stranded at KLIA2, the Malaysian airport’s budget terminal, on Twitter and Facebook.

Born in Sweida, southwest Syria, the insurance marketing manager fears returning back to war-torn Syria as he will be forced to do his military service.

He was working in the UAE when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 but could not renew his passport as it required him to complete mandatory conscription.

Despite securing a temporary passport in 2017, he has been forced to move between multiple countries. He finally ended up in the Malaysian airport where he has lived for the last six months, in a case which echoed Steven Spielberg’s movie The Terminal.

On Tuesday, Mustafar Ali, Malaysia’s immigration chief, told local media that Mr al-Kontar had been staying in a “forbidden zone’ and so was forcibly removed.

“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,” Mr Ali said.

The immigration chief added that Mr al-Kontar would be “referred to the immigration department’ after the police were finished with questioning.

“We will then communicate with the Syrian embassy to facilitate his deportation to his home county … We need to have closure here.”

No further details were given about Mr al-Kontar’s whereabouts which are currently unknown. It is unclear what triggered his removal after so many months.

Mr al-Kontar has bounced across the world since 2016 without successfully seeking asylum anywhere.

The marketing manager lived illegally in the UAE from 2011 until 2016 when he could not renew his passport without returning back to Syria and completing his military service.

He was arrested in the UAE in 2016 but managed to secure a temporary passport a year later.

He was eventually deported to Malaysia, one of the few remaining countries in the world that allows Syrians visa-free entry on arrival. However, he outstayed his three-month tourist visa which he could not renew.

Hassan al-Kontar, a Syrian asylum seeker, has been living in an airport since March in a case which has been compared to the movie The Terminal

In February he was refused boarding to a Turkish Airlines flight to Ecuador where he hoped to claim asylum. A month later he was sent back by Cambodia after a similar attempt.

He has since been living in the arrivals hall of the budget terminal off food donated by airline staff.

In tweets he said he last had contact with the United Nations refugee agency in April without any “real solutions’. He has applied for asylum in Canada but the process can take two years. In the meantime, his passport is due to expire in January.

His last tweet was posted Monday afternoon where he shared a small video of photos from his life.

“In hard times, you discover that what you become during the process is more important than the aim itself. You knew it was hard but did it hard,” he wrote.

Mr al-Kontar is one of 5 million registered Syrian refugees across the world, with the vast majority, some 3.5 million, residing in Turkey.

As the Syrian civil war has dragged on its eighth year, many countries have closed their borders to additional asylum seekers, leaving many in limbo.

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