Saturday, February 24, 2007

Amir Kazemian Accepted


Amir Kazemian, 40 years of age, had been in sanctuary in St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Vancouver where he had been granted asylum since June 2004.

Amir is a survivor of torture who came to Canada and filed a refugee claim in 1997. Amir fears for his life from the Iranian authorities due to his father’s political activities for which his father was imprisoned on numerous occasions and also due to Amir’s own political activities that led to his own imprisonment and torture from
1983 to 1984. At one point, Amir was beaten so badly that he ended up in a coma. Upon the last arrest of his father in 1997, Amir fled from Iran to Canada fearing his own impending arrest.

In 2000, Amir’s mother came to Canada and filed a refugee claim based on the same set of facts as Amir. In a manner that reveals the arbitrariness of the current refugee determination system, Amir's mother has been allowed to stay on the basis of the persecution her husband and son faced, while Amir was forced into sanctuary in order to protect his life. Amir’s mother, who is deeply traumatized, is now a permanent resident of Canada whose emotional well-being is dependent on Amir remaining close to her.

Amir and his family are not just a case number or file number. His situation is precarious, his life in jeopardy if he is deported back. Amir has been diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Syndrome and suffers from extreme anxiety and depression. His mother suffers from high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Amir has the support of the Anglican Diocese, as well as dozens of community groups, women’s centres, human rights organizations, and refugee advocates.

In January 2007, Amir’s lawyer filed a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) application with 7 volumes of new evidence and 141 pages of arguments which demonstrate that Amir is at grave risk, including risk of torture or death, if he were returned to Iran. There is extensive documentation produced by renowned international human rights organizations that illustrate the grave situation in Iran- human rights abuses, arbitrary detention, no freedom of dissent, severe repression of political dissenters, extra judicial killings, torture and rape. This is the reality that refugee claimants face if deported back to Iran.

Amir’s case is the longest sanctuary case in Canadian history. There has been only one other instance where the police arrested someone in sanctuary within the confines of a church. In 2004, police arrested Algerian-born Mohamed Cherfi for allegedly violating his bail conditions. Cherfi was deported to the United States where, a year later, he was granted asylum.