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Syrian Refugee Who Lived in Airport Becomes Canadian Citizen

    Syrian Refugee Who Lived in Airport Becomes Canadian Citizen
    Last updated Jan 12, 2023
    Image credit: BBC

    Facts

    • Hassan Al Kontar — the now 41-year-old Syrian refugee who became stranded in Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2018 for seven months and spent two months in a Malaysian detention center — was officially granted Canadian Citizenship on Wednesday.[1]
    • With his Canadian passport, Kontar hopes to finally see his family again, whose escape from Syria to Egypt he managed to help arrange four months ago, and also travel the world to help other displaced refugees.[2]
    • Kontar became a marketing insurance manager in the UAE in 2006, but his work permit expired in 2011, the same year that mass protests and civil war broke out in Syria. This led to him staying in the UAE illegally for six years, as the Syrian Embassy refused to renew his passport.[3]
    • In 2017, the UAE deported Kontar to Malaysia — one of the few countries where Syrians are granted visa-free entry. But in the absence of legal immigration papers, he could neither stay in Malaysia nor leave the country. "Today I am stateless no more," he told Al Jazeera ahead of the virtual citizenship ceremony.[4]
    • Kontar's plight received global attention after he began tweeting videos detailing his ordeal from the airport. In Nov. 2018, the British Columbia Muslim Association and Canada Caring Society sponsored him to come to Canada with refugee status.[5]
    • According to the UN, a decade of war in Syria has killed more than 350K people and displaced over 13M.[6]

    Spin

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Kontar's resettlement is just a drop in the bucket. The Syrian war is not over, and it continues to be a huge global crisis still affecting millions of lives. While the West has shifted its focus to the war in Ukraine, it must not wash its hands of Syrian refugees languishing in camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, who are facing racism, discrimination, interrogations, and unwarranted jail terms for years.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Though it's impossible to offer all displaced refugees a dignified life, this case shows that Western nations and institutions can make an important difference. Canada is currently among the few countries bearing a disproportionate amount of responsibility. Since a staggeringly high number of people need protection, Canada must adopt an even more uniform, fair, and sustainable refugee policy, and other nations can follow suit.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance at least 186k refugees will be admitted to the US from 2021 to 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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