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Samoa Government blocks stateless man's quest to return home

Mikhail Sebastian, the stateless man stuck in the territory for more than a year, is facing another problem after being given authority by the federal government to return to Los Angeles, which has been his home for four years prior to traveling to Pago Pago in December 2011.


The 39-year old native of Azerbaijan, who became stateless when the former republic of the USSR collapsed, received word more than a week ago that the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved his case and is allowing him to return to the U.S. under humanitarian reasons.


Because there is no USCIS office in Pago Pago, his return authorization and other documents would be sent by courier to the U.S. Embassy in Apia, Samoa, where Sebastian was to pick up from there.


However, Sebastian said the Samoa government would not allow him to enter that country without proper authorization from the U.S. State Department.


“I am having a hard time getting my travel document from the US Embassy in Apia,” Sebastian said on Wednesday. “Samoa Government did not issue permission for my entry into Apia in spite of the fact I entered there before without any official permission.” (During his trip to Pago Pago, Sebastian took a side trip to Samoa).


“Now when I have the US State Department involved and US Embassy, the Samoa government is giving me a hard time to get into Apia so I could collect my travel document,” he said. “The US Embassy said they cannot send my travel document by courier, they do not want anyone else to pick up my document for me; and they do not want to send someone from U.S. Embassy to American Samoa to hand me my travel document.”


Sebastian said he is getting frustrated with the “roadblocks” just to get his documents to return to the U.S.


Then on Thursday afternoon this week, Sebastian sent out an e-mail message to news organizations, including Samoa News, saying that he had just returned from a meeting with the Pago Pago-Samoa Consul General who contacted the immigration authorities in Apia and was told that they had a meeting with the US Embassy on Wednesday and the Samoa government “wanted an official letter of explanation from US State Department why I had to go to Apia to collect my travel document instead of getting it in American Samoa.”


“The issue here in my opinion is that USCIS should have issued the travel document and send it by courier to American Samoa instead of me going to Apia. It really does not make any sense. From one point I agree with the Samoa Government, why they should allow me to enter their country with World Passport (after all the events that has happened) if US does not allow me to enter US with World Passport. This is paradox,” he said.


The World Passport, issued by the Washington D.C. based non profit group World Service Authority, was used by Sebastian to board his flight out of Los Angeles, to enter American Samoa as well as traveling to Apia in the later part of December 2011.


Sebastian said Thursday that the Embassy in Apia should just send someone to American Samoa “to hand me travel documents instead of going through another wheel of bureaucracy. What if US did not maintain Embassy in Samoa? What would have happened next? Sending travel document to US Embassy in Australia or New Zealand and dealing with those government to allow me to enter their countries?”