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`I have no place in the world to go'

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 05 July 2013 - 02:28 PM

Washington Post
July 4 2013

`I have no place in the world to go'

By Mikhail Sebastian, Thursday, July 4, 7:06 PM

Mikhail Sebastian lives in Los Angeles.

Edward Snowden's efforts to escape the transit zone of the Moscow
airport have turned a spotlight on the issue of `statelessness.'
Snowden, however, is not stateless. He has options, regardless of how
unappealing he may find them. But thousands of people in the United
States are stateless - and trapped. Congress should take steps to
address this issue and ensure that what has happened to me never
happens to anyone else.

I am an ethnic Armenian. My parents are from Nagorno-Karabakh, the
disputed territory in Azerbaijan. I was born in Azerbaijan in 1973,
when it was part of the Soviet Union. My family was in Turkmenistan
when the U.S.S.R. collapsed, and no one would give me citizenship.
Because I am of Armenian descent, Azerbaijan said I wasn't an
Azerbaijani. Armenia said that I hadn't adequately proved I belonged
there. After more than three years of discrimination, harassment and
fear, I was able to get a travel visa to the United States in 1995.
But my petition for asylum was rejected in 1996, and I was ordered to
leave the country.


I prepared to go, but I was not able to get a new passport to travel.
The Soviet Union, which had issued my passport, no longer existed, and
no country recognized me as a citizen. Because I stayed beyond the
deadline to leave, the United States processed a deportation order.
Immigration officials detained me in August 2002 and tried for months
to deport me. But U.S. officials couldn't find a country willing to
accept me.

I was released from detention in February 2003 and was ordered to
report to the Department of Homeland Security every three months. I
was issued a permit to work - and I have held jobs as a travel agent
and a barista - but I have to reapply every year, a long, expensive
process that requires taking time off and puts my job at risk. I have
sought travel documents from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Britain, Japan,
Russia, Switzerland, Turkmenistan and more than a dozen others. None
has accepted me.

I have no place in the world to go.

In December 2011, after years of reporting to the U.S. government
every few months, I took what I thought would be a short vacation to
American Samoa. Even though I had checked with Immigrations and
Customs Enforcement and my airline before departing, my four-day trip
turned into a year-long trap. When I tried to fly home, my travel
documents were rejected. For months, U.S. officials said that by
traveling to the U.S. island territory I had self-deported. I was
stuck in American Samoa with no legal ability to work and only the
clothes I had packed. When I finally was able to return home this
year, I no longer had a job. My apartment and most of my things were
gone, and I had lost many friends.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates
that more than 12 million people in the world are stateless. Without
citizenship, no country protects us, and we cannot get travel
documents. Stateless people in the United States cannot leave even if
they want to. We are on hold, living in a dehumanizing space without
status or opportunity.

A provision in the immigration reform legislation that the Senate
passed last month would give status to stateless people who are not
legally recognized in the United States. But this measure could still
be cut from the final compromise with the House.

I consider myself lucky that after 15 months in American Samoa and
advocacy from attorneys, friends and even the UNHCR, U.S. officials
recognized the injustice of my situation and allowed me to return
home. But I remain in legal limbo. I fear being thrown into
immigration detention at any time, even though I have broken no laws.

The United States is not a signatory to the 1954 U.N. Convention
Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons or the 1961 U.N.
Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. It uses stop-gap
measures to provide relief to vulnerable people like me. The United
States ought to have a framework, as the European Union does, to
address statelessness. Congress could allow people who have proved
that they are stateless and meet certain criteria, such as not having
a criminal record, to apply for a more secure legal status. This would
permit people like me to live without fear of being arbitrarily

The United States has always opened itself to the world's suffering
and oppressed people. A country with such a tradition of justice ought
to address this issue.


#2 gamavor


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Posted 15 October 2013 - 07:25 AM

Pitiful and outrages situation, but this time the "country" to blame is not USA but the authorities if our beloved little Armenia, which given the situation of the Armenians, esp. in the former Soviet Union, dispersed in all the "republics" of the Union, should have come up with a legislation regulating the status of apatrides and more so, they should have been able to ease the situation of all those who claim Armenian origin to become Armenian citizens.

But as usual there are more important things to do...like stealing government money for the "common" good.
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