Iran refugee free after years in Canadian church

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Canada unexpectedly granted permanent resident status this week to an Iranian man who spent nearly three years in sanctuary in a Vancouver church before being arrested over the weekend.

The Canada Border Services Agency released Amir Kazemian from custody after Citizenship and Immigration officials granted him residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The surprise ruling came after the arrest the day before of the 41-year-old man by Vancouver police at St. Michael's Anglican Church.

Kazemian, who claimed he had been tortured in Iran, had been living in the church since June 2004 when he sought sanctuary from a deportation order.

He was taken into police custody on 19 February after officers discovered his outstanding deportation order while they were responding to his call for police help about harassing phone calls.

"We have decision-makers that look at all the facts presented and make a decision. And in this case they decided favorably," said Lois Reimer, a spokeswoman for Citizen and Immigration.

Kazemian arrived in Canada in 1998 after leaving his parents in Iran. His mother eventually was accepted as a political refugee, but he was not.

His lawyer's office said Kazemian still must pass a series of checks before being granted full residency status, but he no longer needs to hide in the church while Immigration officials process his application. Those checks typically involve medical and security issues.


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