Saturday, 16 February 2013

Good news: stateless gay Armenian will be allowed entry back into US

Good news. Finally, after a year of being stuck in a real-life “The Terminal” status, stateless gay Armenian will be allowed entry back into US.  Thanks to UNHCR for following-up this case and assisting Mikhail. And thanks to Global Post for keeping us updated.

This case highlights the lack of legal provisions for stateless people in the US and the need to address this issue asap, and hopefully will help others to regain their human rights.

For more background info, readCNN: Stateless gay Armenian man stuck in American Samoa in real life "The Terminal"

Updates via Global Post:

It’s been more than a year since Mikhail Sebastian became marooned on isolated American Samoa after a vacation gone wrong. Now the gay, stateless man, whose unprecedented situation baffled US immigration authorities and horrified migrant rights advocates, will finally be allowed back home to Los Angeles. Late last week, Sebastian was offered humanitarian parole by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a rare status that allows the 39-year-old back onto the mainland while officials figure out next steps in his strange case. His attorneys believe he could be in California by next week once logistical details are worked out.

Sebastian has been stuck on the Pacific US territory since late 2011, but gained worldwide attention after being profiled by GlobalPost last October. A collection of supporters ranging from university professors to immigration attorneys has since pressed officials to allow his return.

“It’s freedom finally,” Sebastian said by phone from American Samoa this week. “I have lived a nightmare here.”

For many in Washington, the coffee barista and former travel agent has become a potent symbol of the broken US immigration system and a voice for the serious problems facing America’s unknown thousands of stateless people — people with no citizenship whatsoever. Up to now, America’s stateless have been largely ignored by policymakers, despite the fact that they are never able to adjust their status under US immigration law and live their lives in a sort-of permanent legal limbo. “What Mikhail has been able to do was bring the issue of statelessness into the light and humanize it,” said Lindsay Jenkins, an assistant protection officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) US office, which has assisted Sebastian with his case. “This really took a village. It was a great example of how many people are supporting this effort to help the stateless.” [...]

Sebastian became a minor island celebrity of sorts, said La Poasa, a reporter with the island’s KHJ radio who has covered the case. “I think after our last story, people were like ‘oh my gosh, he’s still here,'” Poasa said. “People are sad to see him go, but are definitely happy at the same time. I know I had some drinks with my friends and we cheered for him.” [...]

Last year, UNHCR launched a campaign that advocates hope could prod Congress to include stateless people in much-discussed comprehensive immigration reform. They want stateless people to be given a path to legal status, or at least travel documents that would allow them to travel outside the United States. Previous attempts at legislative reform, however, have failed repeatedly.
That doesn’t discourage Sebastian who harbors dreams of one day being able to travel freely and gain some sort of legal status. He hopes his case and its successful resolution will have implications for other stateless people who live deep in the shadows of American society. “This isn’t just about me,” Sebastian said. “There are so many people unfairly suffering.”

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