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03/22/07 - Toronto

Canadian Boy Returns From Texas Detention

Nine-year-old Kevin Yourdkhani returned to Canada Wednesday and quickly faced a crush of media at Toronto's Pearson airport.

It was a wild welcome for the Canadian boy and his Iranian parents, who had been held at a secure U.S. immigration detention facility in Texas for the past month.

The smiling boy clutched a white teddy bear as he was enveloped by reporters thrusting microphones and tape recorders to catch his comments.

"Thank you to everybody who helped us," he said. "I'm happy to go back to school."

Kevin and his parents, Majid Yourdkhani and Masomeh Alibegi got a temporary resident permit from Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley. They did not say Wednesday where the family would be heading from the airport.

"We'd like to thank you all Canadian people, the Prime Minister and immigration minister," said Mr. Yourdkhani. "We are very glad to come back here and say hi to everybody."

The family was met at the airport by their lawyer and a representative from Amnesty International.

Up to this point, the family was caught in international limbo. Their story played in the international press, including a letter that Kevin wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper published in The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Yourdkhani and Ms. Alibegi initially fled Iran for Canada in 1995 to seek political asylum. While here, Majid did odd jobs to pay the rent for their one-bedroom apartment.

In 1997, the couple's only son, Kevin, was born. Kevin attended a Toronto school until Grade 3, when his parents' refugee claim - based on fear of persecution in Iran - was denied and the family was deported in December, 2005.

Upon their arrival in Tehran, Mr. Yourdkhani said he was taken away from his family to a prison cell, where he was detained, beaten and tortured for three months.

Once he was released, with the help of friends they connected with a people smuggler in Tehran, who said he would help them get back into Canada.

On the last leg of their trip, which had already taken them from Iran to Turkey to Greece to Spain to Guyana, their flight made an unscheduled stop on American soil, where they were found to have fake passports. They had been at the Texas facility since Feb. 12.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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