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One of three Afghan military officers detained after fleeing a U.S. training exercise to avoid returning to Afghanistan has been allowed to make a refugee claim in Canada, his attorney said Wednesday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement turned over Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada to Canadian authorities on Tuesday, spokesman Khaalid Walls confirmed.
Askarzada, along with Maj. Jan Arash and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar, took a cab from Massachusetts to New York in September and walked into Niagara Falls, Ontario, to seek refugee status.
The three, who had been participating in a joint military training exercise in Cape Cod, said they fear Taliban retribution in Afghanistan because of their work with U.S. soldiers.
Attorney Razmeen Joya said Canadian immigration officials agreed to reconsider Askarzada's request to make a refugee claim after she submitted documents showing he has a close relative in Canada.
"He is staying with relatives here who also were present at the border yesterday to accompany him home," the Toronto attorney said by email Wednesday.
Canada had denied the three men entry and returned them to the United States, which moved to deport them. Arash and Aminyar remain at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia pending removal proceedings. ICE will drop its case against Askarzada, the agency said.
A 2004 agreement between Canada and the United States requires people seeking asylum at Canada-U.S. land border crossings to apply in whichever country they arrive in first. Exceptions can be made for claimants with relatives in Canada.
If ordered deported, Arash and Aminyar are expected to seek asylum in the United States.
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