Mikhail Sebastian, Gay Armenian Man, Is Stateless In American Samoa


Huffington Post
Dec 18 2012

An ethnic Armenian gay man has been living what has been described
as the real-life version of “The Terminal” in American Samoa.

As CNN reports, Mikhail Sebastian is an ethnic Armenian who fled
Azerbaijan when the Soviet bloc began to crumble in the 1990s. After
attempting to take refuge in Armenia, Sebastian, now 39, eventually
wound up in Turkmenistan — where homosexuality is illegal.

Sebastian came to the United States in 1995, and although he overstayed
his tourist visa, U.S. officials said they would allow him to remain
in California, but warned him that if he left the United States or its
territories, he would be unable to return. As Foreign Policy notes,
he took a trip to American Samoa, a U.S. territory, but then decided
on a short side trip to Western Samoa, not realizing that it is a
separate and independent nation — and now, U.S. authorities will
not allow him to fly back to the mainland.

“It’s horrible here, it’s hot, it’s making me sick, I can’t
stand it anymore” Sebastian is quoted as having told GlobalPost over
Skype. “I just want to go home.”

Among Sebastian’s advocates is the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees’ (UNHCR) office in the United States. “There’s a big gap
in the legal structure of the United States when it comes to stateless
people, and Mikhail has fallen right through it,” spokeswoman Charity
Tooze told GlobalPost in October.