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This Syrian refugee has been living in an airport for more than a month

​He took VICE News on a guided tour of his new home in the arrivals area, where he sleeps under stairs and dines on donated airline food.

by Hind Hassan, Andrew Potter, Laurel Chor, and Daniel Bateman
Apr 20 2018, 12:45pm

Daniel Bateman/VICE News. 

For anyone who's ever complained about being delayed in an airport, spare a thought for Hassan Al Kontar.

The 36-year-old Syrian refugee has been living in limbo in the transit zone of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia since early March, when his 90-day visitor visa expired.

The Malaysian government won't give him permission to live and work in the country, and the airlines won't let him get on a plane. Despite his woes, Al Kontar remains hopeful. Each day he chronicles his story on social media, and jokingly highlights similarities to the Tom Hanks film "The Terminal." He's even tweeted at Hanks directly, hoping to raise awareness about his predicament.

Al Kontar left Syria for the United Arab Emirates well before the war started, but when it came time to renew his Syrian passport in 2012, the regime refused, because he hadn't completed his military service.

He was eventually kicked out of the UAE in 2017 and went to Malaysia. He says Malaysian government officials have discussed offering him a visa to stay as a Syrian refugee, but he’s rejected it because it won’t allow him full rights to work.

Subsequent attempts to travel to Ecuador and Cambodia have failed too.

For now, his temporary Syrian passport is set to expire and airlines still won’t let him board.

“When I was a kid, I asked my father to bring me an atlas," Al Kontar said. "I was trying to memorize it."

“Now it keeps coming to me, the photos of that atlas: All these countries that I was looking at, no one accepting me.”

Al Kontar took VICE News on a guided tour of his home in the arrivals area, where he sleeps under stairs and dines on donated airline food.

This segment originally aired April 18, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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VICE News
Syrian refugees
syrian civil war
refugees of the syrian civil war
Syrian refugee crisis
syrian refugee stories