Syrian stuck at KL airport clings to his hopes

Mr Hassan al-Kontar, a Syrian, has been stranded at the budget terminal of KLIA for more than a month. Videos highlighting his plight have gone viral on social media.
Mr Hassan al-Kontar, a Syrian, has been stranded at the budget terminal of KLIA for more than a month. Videos highlighting his plight have gone viral on social media.PHOTO: COURTESY OF HASSAN AL KONTAR

He may be allowed in temporarily but prefers to be a refugee in a place with lower living costs

PUTRAJAYA • A Syrian man who has been stranded at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for more than a month may be allowed to stay temporarily in Malaysia, provided he passes a security vetting process, said Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed yesterday.

The minister said the government is aware of the plight of Mr Hassan al-Kontar, 36.

Videos on his predicament have gone viral on social media.

"The ministry will consider issuing the man a special pass but under the Syrian Refugee Programme here which has been running for over two years," Datuk Nur Jazlan told reporters after attending an event, The Star newspaper said.

There are more than 3,000 refugees under the programme. "He has to be vetted first to ensure there is nothing wrong with his background in his home country," the deputy minister said.

Reuters reported that the Syrian has been stuck in transit at KLIA2 for more than a month.

Mr Kontar, reached by the Malay Mail Online (MMO) news site, said living in Malaysia would be difficult even if he were given a special pass to enter the country.

 

He said he is worried that he would struggle to find a job in Malaysia and may end up a refugee again when his passport or special pass expired.

He told Reuters that he was living in the United Arab Emirates when war broke out in Syria. He was deported to Kuala Lumpur in 2016, he said, after the Syrian embassy in the UAE refused to renew his passport.

"I am extremely grateful that the Malaysian government has acknowledged my situation but something like removing me from the blacklist or giving me a pass is a short-term solution to the life-long problem I face," he told MMO.

Mr Kontar also said he needed to enter a country that has lower living expenses.

"It is too expensive here in Malaysia. I've also tried looking for jobs here but it did not work out," he told MMO. "I need to go somewhere that will give me a refugee visa; I never want to be placed in this predicament again."

Reuters reported on Thursday that Mr Kontar has been posting video blogs of his daily life on Twitter and Facebook. These have attracted the attention of human rights groups and the media.

The former insurance salesman said he had been living at KLIA2 since March 7, and fears arrest if sent back to Syria where a civil war has been raging for seven years.

"I am afraid of being deported to Syria, not because I'm a coward, not because I don't know how to fight, but because I don't believe in fighting," he told Reuters via Skype.

"I don't want to be a killing machine, destroying my own home and harming my own people."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2018, with the headline 'Syrian stuck at KL airport clings to his hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe