A Syrian refugee who spent seven months living in an airport has finally found a home half a world away thanks to a Canadian woman who helped to sponsor his stay.
37-year-old Hassan Al Kontar is one of many Syrians who fled the country as a means of escaping the war in 2011. He had originally been working as an insurance manager in the United Arab Emirates until they declined to renew his visa. He then tried to stay in Malaysia, but according to the CBC, an unexpected flight cancellation caused his 3-month work permit to expire.
He even made it to Cambodia in a bid to avoid deportation back to Syria, but he arrived at the country only to be sent back to the Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Since leaving the airport would result in his deportation, he had no choice but to live in the “Arrivals” section until he found a country that would accept him.
Kontar spent the next seven months documenting his life on social media where he amassed thousands of Twitter followers. He took videos of himself tending to his potted plants, talking about his favorite books and movies, crocheting stuffed animals, and even amused himself by taking the “pet” toys for “walks”.
He used the automated airport walkway as a treadmill and cleaned himself up in the bathrooms. He was given meals by compassionate airport workers. And all the while, he talked about his longing for a country that would accept him.
Meanwhile, a woman named Laurie Cooper from Whistler, British Columbia, saw one of Kontar’s videos and immediately felt compelled to help the man.
Cooper, with the help of her fellow Whistler residents, started rallying for Kontar’s stay. They reportedly managed to raise over $20,000 for his sponsorship and found him a full-time job at the city hotel. Kontar lovingly called them his “Avengers” as a reference to the Marvel superhero team.
Finally, after spending nine months without a home, Kontar landed in Vancouver earlier this week where Cooper was waiting at the airport to give him a hug and welcome him to Canada.
“I just feel so grateful that things worked out and that he’s here and that he’s safe,” Cooper told reporters at the airport, as Kontar “fought back tears beside her”.
“I never doubted for a moment that we would get him here,” she added.
Kontar is currently staying at Cooper’s house where there is a bed and warm clothes that were donated by community members. When asked about the future, he says that he is excited to acclimate to the Canadian lifestyle – although he also says that he would rather “use a horse” to travel rather than ever set foot in an airport again.