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We Fear Seyni Was Deported

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New Backgrounder Shows How Dangerous It Is to Deport Refugees to Mauritania in 2018

Despite a rapid and powerful mobilization led by America’s Voice, the UndocuBlack Network Network and other immigrant, civil and human rights groups to prevent this outcome, we fear that Seyni Diagne was deported late last night.  

Seyni is a sixty-four year-old Ohio man who has lived in the United States for seventeen years.  He fled horrific human rights abuses in his native country of Mauritania, which included the murder of three family members.  While Seyni lost his asylum case in the U.S. for not filing the application before the arbitrary, one-year deadline, he has much to fear by being sent back.  

Seyni also suffers from kidney cancer and hepatitis, needs surgery for his cancer, and has not received medical treatment for these conditions while in ICE custody for over two months.

While hundreds of activists made calls to Royal Air Maroc, the airline that was scheduled to take Seyni from the US to Africa; ICE; and airport security–warning them that it was unsafe for Seyni to travel in his condition–his plane took off as scheduled.  No one has heard from Seyni since.

A recent article in The Atlantic and the arrest of anti-slavery leader Biram Dah Abeid by the Mauritanian government brought fresh attention to the human rights abuses taking place in this nation today, and the danger Black Mauritanians face if deported by the Trump Administration.  

Today, America’s Voice is publishing a backgrounder, “The Trump Administration Is Deporting Refugees Back to Slavery,” which explains the historical and current context of deportation policy affecting Mauritanians in the United States.

Yesterday, hundreds of people including United We Dream and Credo members mobilized through phone calls and several brave allies with the DMV Sanctuary Congregation and the Sanctuary DMV Networks rushed to the Dulles Airport to try to prevent this human rights tragedy from taking place.  

With at around forty Mauritanians currently in detention and hundreds at risk of deportation, organizations are continuing their campaign to stop this injustice.

According to the U.S. government seventy-nine Mauritanians have already been deported this fiscal year (up from four in FY 2015).  Earlier this week, attorneys Yolanda Rondon with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and Julie Nemecek of Columbus obtained an emergency stay of deportation from the Board of Immigration Appeals in the cases of Ousmane Sy and Abou Diallo, two Ohio men from Mauritania who had been scheduled for deportation on an ICE charter flight.  An emergency stay filed on behalf of Seyni Diagne was denied yesterday, but his lawyer appealed to the 6th Circuit and is awaiting a decision.

Julie Nemecek, lawyer for Seyni Diagne, said: “ICE’s actions in deporting Mr. Diagne are not only inhumane, but also illegal.  This is a clear indication that the Columbus ERO Office is acting out of racism and animus, not the interests of fairness and justice.”

UndocuBlack Network’s National Policy and Advocacy Director, Patrice Lawrence, said: “This administration is cruel and evil. Their actions are unconscionable. We demand that ICE bring Diagne back so that he may continue fighting for his life. We have seen a trend in the targeting and deportation of Black immigrants, and we will not be silent.”

Yolanda Rondon, Senior Staff Attorney with American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said: “We oppose the mass deportation and anti-immigrant agenda by this Administration. We have an obligation to protect all persons who will face harm, mistreatment, persecution or torture if returned to their home country. The administration’s removal of persons to Mauritania under temporary travel documents must stop, especially persons of ethnic minority groups. These individuals are at heightened risk for harm because they do not have official citizenship, and the necessary rights and protections that come with citizenship.”

“The U.S. government deported a man with untreated cancer to a country he fled twenty years ago, and one where he faces grave harm.  This should be unimaginable,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deportation Defense Coordinator at America’s Voice.  “The fact that ICE insisted on deporting Seyni Diagne shows how completely craven their zeal for deportation has become.  We cannot allow them to continue to do this.”

Read the new America’s Voice backgrounder here.  For more on the political situation in Mauritania, see this report from Amnesty International USA.