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New urgency for stateless person, needs medical care

The stateless man stuck in American Samoa since last December faces a new dilemma—he needs surgery but it cannot be done at LBJ Medical Center and he is now pleading with the local and federal government as well as United Nations to get him out of the territory for “medical reasons,” as his health "is deteriorating”.

Samoa News only learned yesterday morning about Mikhail Sebastian’s need to have surgery when he sent an e-mail to Attorney General Fepuleai A. Ripley Jr., with a copy to Samoa News, among others.

“I need to get out of here. I cannot stay here any longer. I need surgery…. Can ASG be more proactive and just deport me back? I am sick and tired of this place,” the  e-mail states in part. It also states that a letter from an LBJ physician to allow him to travel to the US for medical reasons has already been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office, but nothing has been done.

Asked for more information on the type of surgery he needs, Sebastian said, he has a hernia, and was told that this particular type of surgery needs to be done outside of the territory as it cannot be done here.

Sebastian explained that the local family he is staying with was informed by the Attorney General’s Office that a letter from LBJ hospital is needed “so they could do something to allow me to enter the US for medical reasons.”

He says the letter has since been passed on to the AG’s Office as well as to Congressman Faleomavaega Eni’s office, but he has not heard anything back yet.

“My health is deteriorating here,” he said and provided a copy of the Oct.18, 2012 letter from LBJ physician Dr. Karpukhin Vladimir to Faleomavaega’s local office.

Vladimir said the 39-year old Sebastian “is currently diagnosed with interdigital mycosis and inguinal hernia which requires surgery”, but Sebastian “has a significant medical history… and it is recommended that he seek a hematologist and a neurologist off island before any surgical procedure.”

“Unfortunately, LBJ does not have these services available on island and therefore the patient’s life will be at risk [and] should need to pursue surgery,” wrote Vladimir who requested assistance in approving a visa waiver for Sebastian to receive proper care off island.

Prior to traveling to the territory last December with a side trip to neighboring Samoa, Sebastian was residing in the U.S. mainland for 16 years, including the last four years in Los Angeles, where he boarded a flight to the territory.

However, upon trying to return to California, via Honolulu, he was denied boarding at the Tafuna airport, per orders of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who have stated that Sebastian self-deported when he left the U.S. (See Samoa News on Oct. 27 for more details).

Assistant Attorney General Vincent Kruse told Samoa News last month that there is not much ASG can do at this point except to await a decision by the federal government. He said that it's Faleomavaega’s Office liaising with the feds to allow Sebastian back into the U.S.

He also said that as a stateless person, Sebastian is not a citizen of any country and American Samoa cannot send him to another country unless permission is given to enter.

However, Sebastian told Samoa News yesterday afternoon that Kruse is wrong that a stateless person cannot be deported.

“There is an International Law on Deportation, Expulsion and Removal and it clearly states that [a] person can be deported to the country of his citizenship— and if he is stateless, to the country of his last habitual residency, which, in my case, is the United States,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sebastian in an email to two individuals with email addresses with the UN Refugee Agency (or UNHCR), pleaded “to help me get out of here.”

“Several times I have asked you… I agree to move to another safe country in EU (European Union) but nobody listens to me,” he said, adding that ASG “is very slow but UNHCR is slowing the process as well. I want to get out of here.”

He asked the UN to approach all governments in EU “and try to move me out of here since nothing is working out with the US.”

Sebastian told Samoa News yesterday afternoon that that UNHCR is working on his case “but very very slow”. He also said that the last time he spoke to UNHCR, they are planning to make a documentary on his case and will be coming to American Samoa in the beginning of December.

However, he said he needs to get out of the territory into an off-island facility for his surgery. “I am just so, so tired. I need more help from ASG to push the U.S. to act quickly,” he said.