Amnesty International USA calls upon the Trump administration to refrain from deporting people to Cameroon, as the administration schedules deportations this week from Alexandria Airport in Louisiana. The organization is also concerned about the threat of imminent deportation of Cameroonians now being held at the Prairieland detention center in Texas. The Trump administration’s aggressive anti-immigration policies enforced by ICE would place hundreds and possibly thousands of Cameroonians seeking safety in the Unites States at risk upon their return to the Central African nation. Cameroon is struggling with three concurrent crises: the widening conflict between the anglophone and the francophone regions; clashes between the government and armed separatists who are demanding greater autonomy; and a culture of impunity to human rights violations that has been created by the 37-year administration of President Paul Biya.
“Given the current conditions in the country, it is extremely likely that anyone who is returned to Cameroon will face a high risk of being detained, beaten, disappeared, tortured, or possibly even killed,” stated Adotei Akwei, Amnesty international USA’s deputy director of Advocacy and Government Relations. “We are calling on the U.S. government to halt all deportations during this deadly pandemic and are alarmed that it is pursuing these deportations to Cameroon. The United States has both a legal and a moral imperative to welcome those fleeing conflict and persecution to the country: Cameroonians have established vibrant and thriving communities in the United States and people in this country are eager to welcome their new neighbors to safety.”
Amnesty International and other international and United States-based human rights organizations have linked the Cameroonian security forces to extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, destruction of homes and livelihoods, and arbitrary detention of persons they suspect being members or supporters of Boko Haram or the armed anglophone groups. Civilians are also consistently targeted by Boko Haram and the armed separatists’ groups on suspicion of being government supporters.
Nearly 700,000 people have been displaced and several thousand have been killed since the conflict began, with over 3.9 million currently in need of humanitarian support.
This week, Freedom for Immigrants, Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Cameroonian American Council (CAC), Detention Watch Network (DWN), Natchez Network, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Families for Freedom, together filed a multi-individual complaint with the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), condemning the agency for deploying excessive force to coerce Cameroonian asylum seekers into signing their own deportation papers. The complaint describes the coercive tactics, including threats of violence, taking of fingerprints while individuals are in restraint, and the use of pepper spray against those who decline to sign their deportation papers. Advocates allege that these abuses are in violation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the U.S. has ratified, as well as ICE’s own standards.
As part of the #RightsNow! Campaign, Amnesty International USA has called on the United States to halt all deportations during the pandemic. COVID-19 has spread throughout U.S. detention facilities, where people are currently being held in unsanitary, and sometimes deadly, conditions. The U.S. government continues to transfer people between facilities and to deport them to other countries.
Thousands of people have tested positive for COVID-19 in detention, and at least 11 countries have confirmed receiving COVID-positive deported people.