Many of you may be familiar with the name Hassan Al Kontar, a name which has been repeatedly hashtagged and mentioned in the news and on social media portals over the past _not very few_ months.
For those of you who aren’t, Hassan Al Kontar is a 37-year-old Syrian, who used to live and work in the UAE, and whose life took a turn for the worse following the eruption of the Syrian conflict.
When his Syrian passport expired and he couldn’t renew it, he lost his work visa and was deported from the country.
Afraid of getting arrested upon landing in Syria, because he’s wanted for military service there (and refuses to serve), he tried to go anywhere else, with no luck.
After being denied entry to multiple countries, he was finally sent to Malaysia, where he was trapped in the Malaysian airport for more than seven months.
As he started documenting and reporting his day-to-day life in the Malaysian airport through his Twitter feed, his plight garnered international attention, especially that of Canadian Laurie Cooper, resident of Whistler B.C.
Touched by the predicament, she got in touch with Al Kontar and set up a GoFundMe page for him with the goal of buying him a ticket to a safe country. She also coordinated with travelers from around the world to bring Al Kontar cash and supplies.
Shortly after, Cooper and a group of Whistler B.C. residents raised the money required to sponsor him, and set him up with a job and accommodations in Whistler. [Source: CBC]
Al Kontar was granted Asylum in Canada and has landed safely in Vancouver, Canada in November 2018, thanks to the help of the exceptional Laurie Cooper, the amazing group of Whistler residents and the wonderful B.C. Muslim Association, who worked together to sponsor him and lobbied for months to get him to Canada.
I would like to clarify a very important point here; many Malaysians think that Al Kontar never thanked the Malaysian government for taking him in, and are accusing him of being ungrateful for not accepting to stay there and preferring to leave to Canada.
Al Kontar did in fact thank Malaysia for accepting him in when no other country did, and for providing him with a three month tourist visa, and offering him to stay in Malaysia under a local Syrian Refugee program, which is the maximum they could offer within their internal laws and regulations, as per Al Kontar. (a link to the video where he says that is provided in the comments, in Arabic).
But his decision is based on the fact that Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its Protocol, and doesn’t have an asylum system regulating the status and rights of refugees. Accepting to stay without any legal or internationally recognized documentation means that Al Kontar will not be granted a legal work permit and will not be able to legally travel or leave Malaysia for the rest of his life, which is not the freedom he was seeking. So it’s all about the lack of a legal protection framework and the weakness of the administrative structure for asylum being currently provided, and nothing to do with the lovely Malaysian people or their hospitality. It’s as simple as that.
And here’s a beautiful, non-biased and very objective explanation to why Al Kontar came to this decision.
Welcome to Canada Hassan Al Kontar.