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Groups Seek Protection, Redress for Cameroonian Asylum Seekers Deported to Harm

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Washington, DC – On Thursday February 10th at 12pm ET, impacted Cameroonians and advocates gathered on a call to highlight the serious harm and human rights abuses experienced by Cameroonians denied asylum and deported by the United States. This is happening at a time when asylum policies and the treatment of Black immigrants are in the news and the U.S. is reportedly considering Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for Cameroon and other nations.

A new report, released Thursday by Human Rights Watch, “How Can You Throw Us Back?, traces what happened to dozens of Cameroonian asylum seekers the US deported between 2019 and 2021, including cases of arbitrary detention, torture, rape, extortion, violence and other abuses after their return to Cameroon. Many also reported experiencing excessive force, medical neglect and other mistreatment in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in the U.S.

On the call, those gathered described the conditions on the ground in Cameroon that asylum seekers have faced upon expulsion, with two impacted individuals recounting the human rights violations they experienced both in the U.S. and Cameroon. Speakers highlighted why the Biden Administration should bring back wrongly deported Cameroonians via humanitarian parole; ensure redress for harms suffered; designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Cameroon to prevent further deportations; and end the inhumane treatment of Black immigrants. 

Daniel Tse, Founding Member of the Cameroon Advocacy Network, said; “We continue to urge the administration to protect Cameroonians by granting Temporary Protected Status for those in the U.S and shield them from being deported into these horrible conditions exposed in the report. The same reasons we emphasized that these dead flights be stopped. This campaign, this report, is about bringing them back and exposing the harm these unjustly deported individuals have faced. We want the administration to see that this is unjust and they must respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, including non-return to a real risk of persecution, arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, or other cruel, inhuman conditions as exposed in this report.”

Lauren Seibert, researcher in the Refugee and Migrant Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, said: “This was a serious failure of the US asylum system, from start to finish, in terms of people having credible claims and being sent back to the very harm that they said they feared. …Both the US government and the Cameroonian government have committed human rights abuses against these individuals which need to be rectified, and deported people are still in need of protection.”

“Marie (a pseudonym), a Cameroonian asylum seeker deported from the United States, said:  “I fled Cameroon in 2019, traveled to the US…and sought asylum, which was denied. ICE kept me in detention for one year, and I finally was deported…in October 2020. Upon arrival in Cameroon… I decided to go try and find my family, and security forces at a checkpoint asked for my ID. When…they realized that I had been deported from the US, and they started abusing me…I am pleading to the American government to look into my asylum case because I still need assistance and protection. We need refuge so we can secure our lives.”

“Richard (a pseudonym), a Cameroonian asylum seeker also deported from the United States on the same flight, said: “I left Cameroon in 2019 to the United States…to seek asylum, …which was later on denied. I was kept in detention for eight months by ICE. While in detention, ICE used violence on me, forcing me to sign deportation papers. …I was deported on the October 2020 flight… I was taken by [Cameroonian] government officials to… prison, where I was kept incommunicado for one month. … I was beaten up by the military… I still feel very unprotected, and I am pleading, I am looking for a means to move to a safer place.”

Timantha Goff, Policy and Advocacy Analyst with Undocublack Network, said “It is vital that folks be allowed to get humanitarian parole, reapply for asylum, and make sure that ICE agents are held accountable for the abuses that have been perpetrated against Cameroonian asylum seekers. A lot of Black migrants that are coming from countries in the Caribbean and Africa are coming from places that have problematic histories with destabilization and sectarian violence due to western imperialism and colonialism. The US has a moral obligation to provide Cameroonians and all Black migrants with the ability to live safe and fulfilling lives.”

A link to a recording of the Zoom webinar can be found here and accessed using the passcode Cameroon22! 

A link to the Human Rights Watch report highlighted on the call can be found here: “How Can You Throw Us Back?,