Help Hassan Fly to Freedom
HELP HASSAN FLY TO FREEDOM
- A Syrian Refugee Trapped in Kuala Lumpur Airport
(For background information, please read the Hassan's Story below this Update.)
Latest media coverage - https://youtu.be/XIrxOLc5Cbs
UPDATE - Raising Funds for A Year of Survival
Hassan is so grateful for the outpouring of love and generosity from people from around the world who have been touched by his current troubling situation.
We started this fundraiser with a view to raising enough money to buy him a ticket to a safe country. Sadly, it isn't that easy. He may not be permitted to board an aircraft because he needs to have a country that will accept him as a refugee.
With this in mind, we are working to explore the option of having Hassan accepted as a refugee by Canada or the US. We are working with a Canadian lawyer who is trying to see if this is a possibility.
With that goal in mind, we decided to raise enough money to sponsor Hassan to come to Canada. The Canadian government requires a minimum of $13,200 for a single refugee. This is supposed to cover all his living expenses for the first 12 months in Canada.
This amount allows us to submit a sponsorship application for Hassan. If we are not able to sponsor him and he ends up in a different country, all of the funds will be given to him to help him settle into his new home.
In addition, we had to purchase a new cell phone for him - $350 (His cell phone is his lifeline, right now!). And we are sending him some money to purchase small items - $200 US. So we have increased the total goal to $14, 500.
HASSAN'S STORY -
Remember ‘Viktor Navorski’ from the movie "The Terminal"? Meet the Syrian version.
Hassan Al Kontar is a 36 year old Syrian man stuck in the transit zone at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. He's been there for over a month, and if he doesn’t find a solution very soon, he will be sent to Syria, where he faces imprisonment – or worse – for refusing to serve in the military.
His only way to safety requires 6 flights and $7,500. And we’re going to need your help make it happen.
Hassan is 36 years old, an educated professional who left Syria in 2006 to work in the Gulf area. His luck turned in 2012, when the Syrian government in UAE refused to renew his passport. The war had started in Syria, and he was wanted for military service. He vowed he would never return to his home country if it meant he had to fight.
Between 2012 and 2017, Hassan paid a heavy price for his pacifism. Without a valid passport from the Syrian government, he became without status in UAE. He lost his job, he had to sleep in his car or on the street in the stifling 50 degree heat. “I suffered a lot. More than I could ever imagine,” he says of that time.
In October of 2017, his luck ran out and he was caught and arrested for being illegal in the country. He was deported from Abu Dhabi and sent to Malaysia, one of the few countries where Syrians can go without a visa. He was given a document allowing him to stay – but not work – for three months. By January 22, 2018, he had overstayed his visa, and became illegal again.
A false hope
The crisis in Syria has been cruel to its citizens. Those lucky enough to survive and leave the country are often treated like pariahs and criminals. Their own government refuses to help them, and other countries know that. Because they are refugees, they have no recourse.
Hassan thought his luck had turned for the better when Syria, relenting to international pressure, agreed to renew the passports of its citizens again. With his new valid passport, Hassan scraped together enough money to buy a flight to Ecuador, another of the few countries that accepts Syrians without a visa.
He tried to board the plane on February 28, 2018, but a member of the flight staff of Turkish Airlines refused to let him on the plane, and his flight – and the $2,300 he spent on it – was lost.
Next he tried to buy a new ticket on Air Asia to Cambodia – which also doesn’t require visas for Syrians – but this time it was Cambodian immigration that refused him. He was sent back to the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
(Video above is from March 9 - Hassan has now been trapped in the Kuala Lumpar Airport for over a month)
His life now
The airport – the arrivals area of the Air Asia terminal – is where he lives today. For 35 days, he has survived on the minimal food provided by the airline, and he looks forward to drinking one coffee a week. Because he overstayed his visa, he is banned from entering Malaysia until 2023.
He lives, in other words, in a terrible limbo. When he called the UNHCR, they told him to surrender himself to the police. The only country he knows will take him is Syria. Once he returns there, he is unlikely to be seen again. The government does not look kindly on those who have avoided military service.
An intelligent and capable man, Hussan has spent the past month researching his options. Having been burned twice before, he has a very solid grasp of which airlines and which routes will bring him to safety. The safest path requires him to fly from Malaysia to the Middle East to Brazil and Peru and finally to Ecuador, where he has the best chance of starting a new life.
The challenge, as is often the case, is money. The flights alone cost $5,500 (in Canadian funds), and he needs $2,000 to show the authorities in the Middle East when his flight lands there. Because Hassan is unable to access money, we will buy his ticket and use a local contact to get the money into his hands.
Who are we?
A group of passionate volunteers spanning the globe, who have collectively helped more than 100 refugees find refuge in Canada and other safe countries in the past 2 years alone. We include:
Stephen Watt of Community Matters Toronto
Vania Davidovic of Canada Sponsors, Oakville
Laurie Cooper of Canada Caring Society, Vancouver
Lynda Elliott, founder of Refugee Buddy Network, London UK
Jackie Menter of Orange County Jewish Coalition of Refugees, California
Jackie Tarascio, Open Homes Open Hearts US
The amount of $7,500 sounds like a lot, but it is definitely within our reach. For Hussan and for those of us lucky enough to know him, it’s the cost of saving a life.
Any gift, large or small, gets Hussan one step closer to freedom. With your help, we’ll help this bright and sensitive man get a brand new start in a country he is looking forward to call home.
Thanks for your support!
And please share!
Details of how Hussan got here can be found in his Twitter video:
You can also watch his story on the news:
Canada Caring Society is a registered non-profit society, but we are not able to provide charitable tax receipts for donations.
Our members are all Canadian volunteers who are working to support refugees from all countries - in Canada and abroad.
100% of funds raised in this campaign will be provided to Hassan to assist him with being able to find a safe country of refuge.
For additional information, please visit our website - www.canadacaring.ca or email: canadacaring (at) gmail.com.
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CAMPAIGN - For GoFundMe and anyone else who is interested.
This campaign is being spearheaded by Canada Caring Society, a registered non-profit society (72813 2697 BC0001) in Canada operated by a group of dedicated volunteers, including an active Board of Directors.
100% of all funds raised will be deposited to the Canada Caring Society bank account and then transferred to Hassan Kontar via Western Union. If for any reason Hassan is not able to travel to the offices of Western Union in Kuala Lumpur, the funds will be received by Rachel Wright and will be delivered directly to Hassan.
Hassan came to be known to us through one of our overseas volunteers who was aware of his plight. After interviewing him and verifying the information provided, we decided to help him by raising the funds to cover his travel costs to a country of refuge.
(Below: Hassan in happier days. )
Tomorrow, a young American woman who read about Hassan in the Guardian newspaper will be passing through the Arrivals Terminal in Kuala Lumpur bringing him food, clothing and toiletries.
A family from Australia reached out to me today and offered to bring him supplies when they pass through the terminal later in the month.
We have decided to raise the fundraising goal to the amount that would be required to sponsor Hassan to come to Canada which is $13,200.
This amount is set by the Canadian government as the minimum amount required for a refugee to survive for the first year.
If Hassan cannot make it to Canada, he will be able to use the funds to support and establish himself in a new country.
Thank you again! I am so proud of you!
He talks about how very grateful he is to all the people who are helping him.
A wonderful Canadian refugee lawyer has taken on his case on a pro-bono basis and we are reaching out to government representatives, the UN and Amnesty International.
We are delighted to have reached our initial goal of $7500 and have decided to continue to raise funds to help Hassan settle into his new country when he gets there.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at canadacaring(at)gmail.com.