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Russia Cancels FLEX Youth Exchange Program

Lisa Choate

Lisa Choate, at February 4 PDAA lunch program (A. Kotok)

5 October 2014. Russia canceled its participation in an American high-school exchange program after a teenage Russian boy in Michigan sought political asylum claiming fear of persecution at home for being gay. The Future Leaders Exchange or FLEX program that sponsored the child’s visit is funded by State Department, and administered by American Councils for International Education.

According to the New York Times, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center says the 17 year-old boy expressed fear of returning home, sought asylum in the U.S., and was placed in foster care. The Times cites Russian media reports claiming a gay couple in Michigan, not the host family, influenced the boy’s decision and promised financial aid. The Russians also criticized the American legal system for not returning the boy immediately.

FLEX and other youth exchange programs were the subject of a PDAA lunch program in February 2014, featuring Lisa Choate, vice-president of American Councils for International Education.


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