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Former Refugee from Syria Stranded in Airport Now Works with Canadian Red Cross

Hassan Al Kontar is a former Syrian refugee currently living in British Columbia, Canada.

The 40-year-old came to the limelight after being stuck in Kuala Lumpur airport for seven months awaiting his asylum claim to be reviewed.

Hassan had traveled to northern B.C. on a temporary job assignment, but he didn’t have the necessary paperwork to remain in the country.

Since 2006, Hassan worked as a marketing insurance manager in the United Arab Emirates.

Unfortunately, he lost his work permit due to the Syrian war, forcing him to stay in the UAE as an illegal immigrant.

In 2017, the UAE government deported him to Malaysia, which gave him a three-month tourist visa.

He did not want to go back to Syria where the civil war was raging, but he was rejected when he tried to fly to other countries to find a safe place to live.

Living at the Airport

This is how he got stuck at the Kuala Lumpur airport as he waited for his asylum request to be reviewed.

He spent nights in airport chairs under an escalator and depended on the cleaning staff to bring him food and coffee.

Hassan said that it became impossible to do the most usual things, including getting medicine, taking a shower, and washing clothes.

After 122 days, he smelled fresh air when someone opened the door to the outside.

Moving to Canada

As months went by, Hassan became frustrated and took to social media to narrate his ordeal.

Fortunately, a private group of Canadian sponsors from Whistler, B.C. came to his aid and helped him find asylum in Canada in November 2018.

This is thanks to the private sponsorship program first introduced in Canada that allowed five individual Canadians or permanent residents to sponsor a refugee.

Giving Back to the Community

After finding asylum in Canada, Hassan lived in the Lower Mainland for two and a half years working with the Red Cross in Vancouver.

He later moved to Fort St. John, B.C. where he became an emergency health worker with the Red Cross.

He was inspired by the Red Crescent Movement and the International Red Cross in Syria to help others deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with the Canadian Red Cross has enabled him to work in various COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites in the country.

Other than getting to widen his Canadian experience, he says that working in Canada’s small communities is one of the best decisions he has ever made.

While he admits that Canada is not a perfect country, Hassan says that living in the country for two years has been a dream come true for him.

Having previously lived under different dictatorships, he says that he enjoys living in Canada because no one is above the law.

Every human being is valued and has the right, voice, and freedom to believe and speak.

Hassan’s Mission

Hassan is now focused on helping his family and other refugees find safety.

He is also committed to ensuring that the western world understands the plight of refugees, especially during the pandemic when countries imposed restrictions.

He has even written a book titled Man @ the Airport.

Hassan will return to the Lower Mainland once he is done with his Fort St. John assignment, probably in late August.

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