A “desperate” Syrian man — faced with the prospect of a brutal civil war back home — has been stranded at a Malaysian airport for more than a month, according to a report.
Hassan al-Kontar has been stuck in limbo at Kuala Lumpur International Airport since March 7, when he was sent back to Malaysia after trying to enter Cambodia.
“I’m desperate for help,” said al-Kontar, whose real-life plight mirrors the predicament of Tom Hanks’ character in the 2004 film “The Terminal,” the BBC reported. “I can’t live in this airport any longer. The uncertainty is driving me crazy. It feels like my life hit a new low.”
Al-Kontar’s nightmare began when he lost his work permit and job in the United Arab Emirates, where he’d been living for the last 11 years as civil war broke out in his home country.
He initially was sent to a holding center in Malaysia in January 2017 because “it is one of the very few countries in the world which offers visas upon arrival to Syrians like me.”
The 36-year-old was granted a three-month tourist visa — and opted to travel to Ecuador, where he’d always wanted to go.
“I saved up enough money to buy a plane ticket on Turkish Airways,” he said. “But for some reason, they did not allow me on the flight and I found myself back at square one.”
He was fined for overstaying his visa in Malaysia and says he’s been “blacklisted” in the country.
So he then tried traveling to Cambodia — but was stripped of his passport upon arrival and sent back to Kuala Lumpur.
Syrians are able to get visas on arrival in Cambodia but can be denied entry if they fail to meet government “requirements,” officials from Cambodia’s immigration ministry told the Phnom Penh Post.
“Anyone can apply for the visa on arrival,” said Sok Veasna, a director at the immigration ministry. “But we need to check what their purpose is.”
Al-Kontar said he wasn’t given a clear reason why he was denied entry.
Now, he’s forced to shower in an airport bathroom and lives off packaged meals of chicken and rice that AirAsia provides, the Guardian reported.
As his bank account dwindles, he occasionally splurges on a meal at McDonald’s or gets coffee delivered by airport cleaners — who charge about $2.55 for the service.
He’s documented his airport plight on Twitter.
With nowhere to go, al-Kontar fears being deported to Syria — where he could be arrested for dodging a call-up for military service.
“I don’t know what to say or what to do. I need a solution, I need a safe place where I can be legally, with work,” he said. “Syria is out of the question, even if I am staying here forever. I don’t want to be part of the fight, I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t want to be killed as well. It’s not my war.”
In the Steven Spielberg-directed “The Terminal,” Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, an Eastern European man trapped at JFK Airport as war rages in his home country.