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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Syrian refugee arrested after living in Malaysian airport for months

Hassan Kontar's current whereabouts remain unknown

Hassan Al Kontar from a photo posted on his Twitter account.
Hassan Al Kontar from a photo posted on his Twitter account.

A Syrian man was arrested on Tuesday after spending seven months in a Malaysian airport.

Hassan Kontar, a 36-year-old who has been living in Kuala Lumpur airport since March, says he refuses to fight for any side in his country's civil war.

The Syrian national was detained after entering a "forbidden area" of the airport, Malaysia's immigration chief Mustafar Ali told local media. He added that authorities are working together with the Royal Malaysia Police.

"Passengers at the boarding area are supposed to get on their flights but this man did not do so. He is situated in a forbidden zone and we had to take the necessary action," Mr Ali said.

Mr Kontar is expected to be "referred to the immigration department" after police were finished with their questioning.

"We will then communicate with the Syrian embassy to facilitate deportation to his home country," Mr Ali said.

The refugee was living and working in the UAE when war broke out in Syria in 2011.

Mr Kontar was unable to renew his passport because he has not completed military service at home, but refused to return, fearing for his safety.

He stayed in the UAE until 2017 when he was unable to renew his visa and then left for Malaysia because the country allows Syrians to enter without previously receiving a visa.

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However, he was then blocked from renewing his three-month visa to the country.

In March, Mr Kontar tried to fly to Cambodia, but was rejected by immigration authorities and departed back to Kuala Lumpur.

Since then he has been living in the airport's transit zone, depending on the generosity of airport and airline staff for food and supplies.

Mr Kontar has become a social media frenzy, a man who regularly hides under an escalator to avoid interacting with passengers who come to the airport to find him or propose to marry him in an effort to help him out of his legal limbo.

He usually posts on Twitter to describe his time in the airport.