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Syrian man stranded at Malaysia airport for 8 months granted asylum in Canada – AOL

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A Syrian man who spent eight months stranded in an airport in Malaysia after he refused to return to his home country because he feared being arrested for refusing to join their military has been granted asylum and permanent residency in Canada.

Hassan al Kontar, 37, arrived in Vancouver around midnight on Monday, his lawyer Andrew Brouwer confirmed to NBC News. He had been living at Kuala Lumpur International Airport since March 7.

Before al Kontar was allowed to enter Canada, he was at risk of being deported to Syria. Brouwer credits “lots of advocacy and behind the scenes work” in helping to expedite al Kontar’s asylum application, which typically takes up to 26 months to process.

Brouwer said the Canadian government contacted Malaysia to assure al Kontar that his application would be expedited.

“We are completely relieved by the outcome,” Brouwer said. “What happened to Hassan is emblematic of what it’s like to be a refugee. He is one of the millions upon millions of refugees out there — people stuck in limbo like he was. It is very important for Hassan that people realize that.”

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Six-month-old twins Safa and Marwa, who suffer from malnutrition, are seen at their home in the Hazzeh area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH “KHABIEH MALNUTRITION” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES.

Two-and-a-half year old Hala al-Nufi, who suffers from a metabolic disorder which is worsening due to the siege and food shortages in the eastern Ghouta, reacts as she sits on a bed in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH “KHABIEH MALNUTRITION” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.

A Syrian shovels away debris from the higher floor of a building that was reportedly shelled by regime forces in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna on the outskirts of Damascus on November 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)

ATTENTION EDITORS – VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY An injured student lies on a bed at a field hospital in the town of Jisreen, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh TEMPLATE OUT

DAMASCUS, SYRIA – NOVEMBER 20: People inspect the debris of a building after Assad regime’s warcrafts carried out airstrikes over residential areas of Kafr Batna town of the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus in Syria on November 20, 2017. It is reported that 9 civilians, including 4 children were killed after the attack.
(Photo by Anas Damashqy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

ATTENTION EDITORS – VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A wounded man is seen lying in Douma hospital after heavy shelling in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh TEMPLATE OUT

ATTENTION EDITORS – VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A wounded man is seen lying in Douma hospital after heavy shelling in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

A man walks on rubble after an airstrike in the rebel-held city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta Syria November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Two-and-a-half year old Hala al-Nufi, who suffers from a metabolic disorder which is worsening due to the siege and food shortages in the eastern Ghouta, is held by her uncle in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh SEARCH “KHABIEH MALNUTRITION” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.

Children wait to be examined from Unicef health workers in Kafra Batna in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, Syria October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

ATTENTION EDITORS – VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY An injured student lies on a bed at a field hospital in the town of Jisreen, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh TEMPLATE OUT

ATTENTION EDITORS – VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Injured students lie on beds at a field hospital in the town of Jisreen, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Smoke rises at a damaged site in Ain Tarma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Children hold corncobs at Ain Tarma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

A Syrian child is seen walking near International Red Cross vehicle in the rebel-held city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

A Syrian woman walks past damaged buildings in Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh




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In a tweet Monday, al Kontar announced that he had traveled to an international airport in Taiwan and was headed to his “final destination” in Vancouver.

“The last 10 months, it was very hard,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “I could not do it without the support and prayers from all of you. I could not do it without the help of my family, my Canadian friend’s family, and my lawyer. Thank you all. I love you all. I will keep you updated.”

He added: “Let’s keep the prayer for those who still need it the most, in refugee camps and detention camps all over the world. I hope they will be safe and legal as soon as possible, too.”

The British Columbia Muslim Association and the Canada Caring Society sponsored al Kontar to come to Canada as a refugee.

“It was a unique and very difficult situation. We are really grateful to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and to the Canadian officials who worked so hard to resolve Hassan’s predicament,” Canada Caring Society volunteer Laurie Cooper said in a statement. “We are proud that Canada was willing to step up and help Hassan when so many countries around the world are closing their doors to refugees.”

A request for comment by the Minister of Immigration was not immediately returned.

Al Kontar’s struggles to find a safe place to live began when he refused to join the military in Syria. Al Kontar, who was working as an insurance marketing manager in the United Arab Emirates at the time, said the Syrian embassy in the UAE declined to renew his passport in 2012, which meant his work permit could also not be renewed.

He spent the next several years in the UAE.

Last year, al Kontar was apprehended by UAE authorities and sent to Malaysia, which accepts Syrian citizens without a visa for up to 90 days. After his visitor visa expired in March, al Kontar decided he would travel to Ecuador to request asylum, but he was not allowed to board the plane.

Al Kontar was also not allowed to re-enter Malaysia because he had overstayed his visa. With nowhere to go, al Kontar found himself stuck at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. In early October, he was detained by Malaysian authorities and spent the past two months at an immigration detention center in Kuala Lumpur, according to his lawyer.

Al Kontar gained international attention after he started tweeting about his plight.

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