Iranian refugee now a free man

By on April 1, 2007

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the Canadian primate, visited Amir Kazemian in October, 2006, at St. Michael’s church, Vancouver, where the Iranian man lived in sanctuary since June, 2004.

In two days in mid-February, Amir Kazemian, an Iranian refugee who had spent nearly three years living in sanctuary at an Anglican church in Vancouver, went from being a detainee to a free man and permanent resident in Canada.

Mr. Kazemian was arrested Feb. 17 by local police and turned over to Canadian immigration authorities. On Feb. 19, the Canadian Border Services Agency released him and granted him permanent resident status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

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Shortly after the surprise ruling, an ecstatic Mr. Kazemian told reporters he planned to “have a party, maybe go skiing and learn Vancouver streets,” reported the Vancouver Province.

Shortly after Mr. Kazemian was arrested inside St. Michael’s church, his lawyer, Naomi Minwalla, had made an urgent plea for support on the diocese of New Westminster’s Web site, and via e-mail to church leaders, including the office of Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. (Archbishop Hutchison had visited Mr. Kazemian twice last year and promised to advocate on his behalf.)

Ms. Minwalla said police arrested Mr. Kazemian after he called them to file a complaint against a man who had tried to con him. She said a Vancouver police officer who came by the church told Mr. Kazemian that before she could deal with his complaint, she needed to execute an outstanding immigrant arrest warrant for him. Ms. Minwalla said her client told the police officer that many law enforcement officers had attended the church before and respected his status in sanctuary. After the officer insisted on executing the arrest warrant, a throng of Mr. Kazemian’s supporters joined Ms. Minwalla when she appealed for his release at the agency office.

Mr. Kazemian, who claimed he had been tortured in Iran, had been living in the church since June 2004 when he sought sanctuary following a deportation order. He arrived in Canada in 1998.

“His (Mr. Kazemian’s) lawyer had submitted on his behalf an application back in early January and that was decided and (the ruling) was communicated to Canada Border Services Agency this morning,” Lois Reimer, communications director for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said. “We have decision-makers that look at all the facts presented and make a decision. And in this case they decided favourably.”

Added Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson Janis Fergusson: “He’s a free man.”

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