Afghani exchange student in Colorado seeks asylum in Canada
DENVER, Colorado ” A Columbine High School exchange student from Afghanistan has turned up in Canada and is seeking asylum there, officials said.
Mesbah Habibi (MEZ’-buh ha-BEE’-bee) seemed to disappear on Monday after he checked his bags at Reagan National Airport in Washington while traveling for a seminar.
The American Councils for International Education, a nonprofit group sponsoring the exchange program, said Habibi and five other exchange students slipped away to Canada over the past month and asked for asylum.
Habibi and one other student left while traveling for the seminar; the others left at different times, said Ben Gaylord, who works on secondary education programs with the student-exchange group.
All have contacted their host families or the exchange-student group to let them know they’re safe.
“This was not like a planned thing with six students leaving all at once,” Gaylord said.
“We never had any indications that these particular students had any problems with going home,” he said.
Officials at the suburban Denver high school said Habibi took part in track and field and the Unity Action Club and was a member of the student newspaper staff.
The Afghanistan Consulate in Toronto said it was unaware of the case and has not been asked to verify Habibi’s citizenship.
U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said the department had been notified by the student-exchange group of the students’ actions.
“Because they are in violation of their program requirements and their visa requirements, they will not be able to return to the United States,” he said. “If they do attempt to return to the United States, they will be subject to immediate deportation.”
Stephane Malepart, a spokesman for Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, said the agency does not comment on asylum cases.
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