“The past is no longer with us. What is important is today and tomorrow; the present and the future.”
This is what Syrian refugee Hassan Al-Kontar graciously said in his last tweet letting everyone know that he is FINALLY going to be okay.
Who is Hassan?
In case you have been living in hiding for the past 6 months; Hassan Al-Kontar is a 37-year-old Syrian refugee who has been stranded in Kuala Lumpur’s airport for over six months. He hadn’t been able to travel anyway and was banned from entering Malaysia so he was stuck in the airport unable to go anywhere. To plead for help and let everyone around the world know what is going on with him, Hassan has been documenting the steps of his journey through Twitter.
“For the past 8 years, it was a long hard journey,” said Hassan in his last video. This statement applies to Syrians all over the world, not just Hassan. “Hard” is even an understatement, to be honest.
When the Syrian war broke out in 2011, Hassan had been working in Abu Dhabi, UAE as a successful insurance marketing manager. When his passport expired, the Syrian embassy refused to renew it because he didn’t serve in the Syrian military. And just like that, Hassan became an undocumented immigrant.
Hassan then started working part-time in solar energy fields because he couldn’t get a legal visa to work anywhere else. However, when Hassan tried to renew his passport last year, he was detained by the UAE authorities. Hassan was placed in a detention center.
Hassan had only two options; either go back to Syria where he faced getting arrested and sent to jail for not fighting with the Syrian army, or go to Malaysia which was one of the few countries that don’t require a visa ahead of arrival.
However, this was only a temporary solution. After three months, Hassan had to be on the move again since he could not extend his visa and Malaysia does not accommodate refugees. He tried to get flights out of Malaysia to different other countries that allow arrivals without a visa, however, due to airport regulations, documentation problems and unclear immigration requirements, different countries refused to allow him in. Several flights were canceled for no apparent reason and several airlines refused to allow him to board a flight out.
Hassan was now stuck, he was unable to leave the airport, and unable to get out of it. He stayed this way for over 200 days. As if the situation could get even worse, the Malaysian authorities arrested Hassan in early October 2018 and threatened to deport him back to Syria if he couldn’t get a visa anywhere else.
As Hassan lived under a stairway in the transit zone of Kuala Lumpur airport, he had one last hope. It was the application he sent out for asylum in Canada.
The Silver Lining to Hassan’s Dark Cloud
After disappearing for almost two months from all social media platforms, Hassan came back bearing very happy news on November 26th.
Breaking news ✌✌ pic.twitter.com/o2vQGROBdS
— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) November 26, 2018
“For today, I am in Taiwan international airport. For tomorrow, I will be reaching my final destination in Vancouver, Canada,” Hassan announced in a video he posted on Twitter.
Thanks to Canada Caring Society, whose online petition reached 62,000 signatures, and the British Columbia Muslim Association, Hassan has finally found a home. Hassan’s supporters or as he called them his “Canadian friends and family” warmly welcomed him when he arrived in Vancouver on Monday.
The struggle was finally over! For Hassan, at least.
In his last video, Hassan asks everyone watching “to keep the prayers for those who need it most” referring to all the Syrian refugees struggling around the world.
Hassan is not the only one who has struggled to find shelter since the Syrian War began. And as so many people came through for him, we truly hope and pray that this was just the beginning of many more happy endings for other refugees.