Refugee to Be Deported to Syria After Stuck in Airport for Seven Months

Hassan al-Kontar, the Syrian man who had been stranded in a Malaysian airport for nearly seven months, has now been arrested and will be deported to his homeland, immigration officials have confirmed.

"His statements on social media shamed Malaysia," the country's immigration chief Mustafar Ali said, Channel News Asia reported Tuesday. "[He] was arrested yesterday because he was in a restricted area without a boarding pass," he explained.

Kontar, 36, fears he may face arrest or be forced to join the military upon arrival in Syria—which is why he has gone to extreme lengths to avoid returning.

His troubles began in 2011, while he was working in the United Arab Emirates and the war broke out in his country. When his passport expired, he was required to return to Syria to renew it. He chose not to do so, as he had never completed his mandatory military service and he feared he would be forced into the army. Instead, he remained illegally in the UAE, losing his job as he no longer had legal status. He struggled to find work, food and shelter.

He eventually was caught and was given a new passport, but he was forced to leave the UAE. Immigration officials gave him a choice of returning to Syria or going to Malaysia, one of the only countries in the world that still allowed Syrians to enter without a pre-approved visa. He chose Malaysia, but his troubles continued because he was unable to gain legal status after his tourist visa expired there.

About seven months ago, he tried to travel to Ecuador via Turkey, where he believed he could more easily gain asylum and start a new life. But after spending most of his money on the plane ticket, he was denied boarding by airline staff. Ever since, he has been stuck in the airport terminal, unable to re-enter Malaysia and sharing updates about his life via social media. Now he faces deportation.

After he is questioned by police, Malaysia plans to "facilitate deportation to his home country," Ali confirmed to the BBC.

In his most recent Twitter post, shared on Monday, Kontar created a slideshow of images from his life. He wrote : "In hard times, you will discover that what you become during the process is more important than the aim itself … You knew it was hard but you did it hard."

A group of volunteers in Canada had been working to assist Kontar with an asylum bid in their country, according to the BBC. It's unclear whether that process has moved forward or is still a possibility.

"I have become more disappointed, more desperate and more depressed over time," Kontar told Newsweek in June. "I was optimistic earlier in my stay because I thought I had more options."

Refugee to Be Deported to Syria After Stuck in Airport for Seven Months | World