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Saturday July 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday July 13, 2013 MYT 12:42:20 PM
by t. selva, p. aruna, AND rashita a. hamid
Sofa, so good: Ahmed uses a two-seater couch at the transit lounge as his bed.
PETALING JAYA: For more than 50 days now, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) transit lounge has been home to a stranded 22-year-old Palestinian.
Unknown to enforcement officers, Ahmed Kanan has been sleeping on a couch at the News Lounge in the transit area on the airport’s mezzanine floor.
He has been depending on transit passengers for his daily meal, usually a burger a day, and bathes in a public toilet.
Ahmed, who was born in Syria, holds a Palestinian passport. He has been barred from the country for overstaying before.
“I have appealed to airport immigration officers for help several times but they said they could not help me because I have been barred from entering Malaysia,” he said when interviewed.
He has enough creature comforts though, including WiFi Internet access provided by a café, which enables him to keep in touch with family members in Bulgaria and Vienna via Skype.
After the first two days, during which he had no food, he cried out to workers at a food outlet for something to eat. One worker later sneaked a burger out from the kitchen.
Ahmed has no problems with dirty clothes either. A friendly airport cleaner takes his clothes back to his home, washes the items and returns them to him every few days.
His humble and pleasant personality enables him to make friends easily. He updates his Facebook status with newly acquired foreign friends who have helped him while passing through at KLIA.
“Many workers at the transit area know me because I believe I am the longest staying person here. Most pity me and some even cry after listening to my story of being stranded here for so long,” said Ahmed.
His bag contains four shorts, three T shirts and four underpants, a laptop and a mobile phone.
“I have already lost 8kg in weight. I pray to Allah five times a day at the lounge here for help and I believe someone will come to my rescue.
“I do not beg for money but I have been getting between US$10 and US$50 from passengers who are touched by my plight,” he said, adding that he arrived at the KLIA with US$70.
Ahmed said he wanted to study and work in any country and hoped at least one would take him soon.
“Currently, no country wants to receive me because of my Palestinian passport. I hope the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will help me,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed’s ordeal began when he first arrived at KLIA on a tourist visa on Nov 26 from Moscow. He had been studying tourism for more than a year but could not get his stay in Russia extended.
He had left Palestine earlier because of the unrest in the occupied territory and wanted to look for a safer country to study and work.
Upon arrival in Malaysia, he sought help from a Palestinian student in Malacca to register himself at the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) campus to take a course but his application was rejected because he was on tourist visa.
Ahmed said that after his month-long stay expired, he flew to Laos but was denied entry because he did not have a visa. He was asked to return to Malaysia.
When he arrived at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), an immigration officer stamped his passport, giving him only a seven-day stay but he did not know where else to go and overstayed for three months.
He then left for Turkey but, without a visa, was denied entry and sent back to Malaysia. The Turkish officials, however, seized his passport.
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