In Limbo: Stateless Man Stuck On American Samoa Mikhail Sebastian came to the South Pacific island for what should have been a short vacation; he has now been there for a year. U.S. immigration officials say he self-deported.

In Limbo: Stateless Man Stuck On American Samoa

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Now, from the journal of stories of the year past, come with us to American Samoa. Mikhail Sebastian is a man without a country, stateless and stranded on that South Pacific island. And he's a lot more eager to get off than Robinson Crusoe ever was. We first encountered Sebastian in October. Born in the former Soviet bloc, he escaped and made his way to the United States, living and working here for 16 years. A condition tied to his residency is that he cannot leave. So Sebastian travels to the farthest fringes of U.S. territory: Guam, Puerto Rico - you get the idea.

But he hit the end of the line in American Samoa. When he tried to get home to L.A., he was blocked. He found out that American Samoa has its own rules, and paradise has turned to limbo. He can't even work there, so the American Samoa government is paying a local family to put him up. We caught up with him at their home.

MIKHAIL SEBASTIAN: Since the first interview we had back in October, I'm so thankful to NPR. I got a lot of emails and tweets from people who really cared about the situation, who were over on my side.

LYDEN: Nevertheless, U.S. Immigration has shown no sign of relenting, and today marks one year precisely that Sebastian has been stranded on the island.

SEBASTIAN: First of all, it's hard. It's frustrating because I did not expect it's going to take a whole year. And the only thing I just want to say, that I want to just get out of here. I just want to go back home.

LYDEN: Staff from the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees recently traveled to the island to make a video about Mikhail Sebastian's plight.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nothing like this has ever happened in American Samoa. I'm fairly confident of that because American Samoa has no idea what to do with Mikhail.

LYDEN: That's Sebastian's lawyer. But so far, no agency that could do something about this has budged, so Mikhail Sebastian kind of lives in his head.

SEBASTIAN: 2012 was a bad year. And I hope that 2013 will bring me a lot of hope and then a lot of chances can be done in our broken immigration system.

LYDEN: The UNHCR estimates there are 12 million stateless people throughout the world. Mikhail Sebastian says if he ever gets back to the United States, he'll work to promote the rights of these citizens of nowhere.

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