Tuesday, December 16, 2003

TORONTO STAR ON AZAN

Today's Toronto Star covered the Azan story on page A16 in the print version. For some reason the story has not appeared in the online version so I don't have a link but through a university connection to the print version of The Star I am able to quote at lenght directly from the story. It reports most of the details that I have already posted about below:


'SLIP' COSTS MAN HIS FREEDOM'
Canadian claims he mistakenly said he was U.S. citizen now stuck in detention centre 'with murderers'
Philip Mascoll, Toronto Star

A slip of the tongue when he answered an American official has landed Canadian citizen Randolph Andre Azan in a detention centre where he has been locked up for close to two weeks "with rapists and murderers," his partner says. Azan, a Toronto-raised New York resident, is charged with "misrepresenting himself as a United States citizen," after he muddled up his citizenship and his residency while being questioned Dec. 3, at the airport in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, his partner Rudy Miles said from New York last night.

The couple was on the way back from a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when Azan, according to Miles, was asked his citizenship and in error, answered: "American." "He meant to say Canadian citizen... American resident. We had filled out some forms the night before with the correct information. The card was filled out correctly. It was just a simple slip of the tongue," Miles said. "He was holding in his hand a valid New York driver's licence with his picture on it."

Azan, 33, who "has lived and worked in New York since the '90s and paid taxes and has a U.S. Social Security number was not trying to deceive anyone. He made a genuine mistake," Miles said.... Initially, Miles was not told what had happened, but refused to leave his partner, so missed the flight and remained in St. Thomas, seeking answers.... But the following day, when he tried to learn more about the situation, he was told Azan had been flown to a detention centre in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Azan is to face a judge in Puerto Rico this morning but up to last night had not yet been given a lawyer, Miles said.

However, he has told Miles in telephone calls from the detention centre that he was offered the chance to sign two sets of forms. The first was a waiver that would see him instantly deported to Canada. The second would have seen him quickly in front of a judge.

"He refused to sign the forms requesting deportation, because he is not illegally in the country, and has done nothing wrong," Miles said. "And the other set of forms, which he signed, were to ensure he went before a judge quickly. It has already been 13 days and he hasn't seen a judge," Miles said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not reply to the Star's e-mailed request for information on Azan. Marie-Christine Lilkoff of the Foreign Affairs department in Ottawa saidĀ information on Azan's case was being sought.



I had previously reported that Azan had been offered deportation to Jamaica, his country of birth, but not Canada. This seems to have been in error. However, the point that he refused deportation so as to protect his residency status and because he had not done anything seriously wrong still seems valid.

This story seems to further confirm that Azan made only a minor mistake. The story notes that he had all the proper domcumentation filled out properly in advance. He only made a small slip of the tongue in questioning at the border. For this he is detained for two weeks without a court appearance and without a lawyer.

There is another point that I have not been emphasising but that has come up in the comments section and also that Azan's friends have been emphasising. That is that Azan is both Black and gay, and was travelling with his partner when he was detained. Obviously I did not witness the questioning of Azan or his detainment but it is possible that these two factors contributed to his treatment. It certainly would not be the first time that accusations of discrimination along these lines have been directed towards American border officials.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:47 PM