QUEER VOICES
12/18/2012 11:01 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

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

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.

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