Feb 10, 2022.
February 10, 2022“How Can You Throw Us Back?” Asylum Seekers Abused in the US and Deported to Harm in Cameroon
After the United States rejected her asylum claim and deported her in October 2020, Esther, a Cameroonian woman, found herself trapped in a nightmare in the country she had previously fled. “I was arrested and detained [by gendarmes]... I was raped. I was well [seriously] beaten, I was tortured, I lived mostly on bread,” she said. “They said we are the people that have gone out and spoiled the name of the country… so I have to pay for it dearly.”
The 149-page report, “‘How Can You Throw Us Back?’: Asylum Seekers Abused in the US and Deported to Harm in Cameroon,” traces what happened to the estimated 80 to 90 Cameroonians deported from the United States on two flights in October and November 2020, and others deported in 2021 and 2019.
People returned to Cameroon faced arbitrary arrest and detention; enforced disappearances; torture, rape, and other violence; extortion; unfair prosecutions; confiscation of their national IDs; harassment; and abuses against their relatives. Many also reported experiencing excessive force, medical neglect, and other mistreatment in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in the US.
“The US government utterly failed Cameroonians with credible asylum claims by sending them back to harm in the country they fled, as well as mistreating already traumatized people before and during deportation,” said Lauren Seibert, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Cameroon and US governments need to remedy these abuses, and US authorities should provide opportunities for wrongly deported Cameroonians to return and reapply for asylum.”
By returning Cameroonians to face persecution, torture, and other serious harm, the US violated the principle of non-refoulement, a cornerstone of international refugee and human rights law.
Between December 2020 and January 2022, Human Rights Watch interviewed 41 deported Cameroonian asylum seekers, 4 asylum seekers in the US, and 54 other people in the US and Cameroon, including relatives and friends of those deported, witnesses to abuses, lawyers, immigrant rights activists, and experts. Human Rights Watch collected and analyzed US asylum and immigration documents of deported people, as well as photographs, videos, recordings, and medical and legal documents corroborating accounts of mistreatment in Cameroon.
Cameroon has faced humanitarian crises in several regions in recent years. Respect for human rights has deteriorated and the government has increasingly cracked down on opposition and dissent. Violence since late 2016 by government forces and armed separatist groups in Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions has caused mass displacement, as have intercommunal violence and ongoing conflict with Boko Haram in the Far North region.
“We put all our hope in the USA when we went to seek refuge,” said a 37-year-old man who was deported to Cameroon in October 2020. “We did not imagine the US would return us like that.” He spent nearly three years in US immigration detention and was arbitrarily detained in Cameroon after his return. He remains in hiding.
Melanie Nathan, ED of AHRC: At African Human Rights Coalition we are privy to these and similar cases. We provide Country Conditions Reporting in the U.S. Courts for LGBTQI asylum seekers. Thus far we have been successful in all our cases where deportation has either been withheld or asylum granted. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to ensure that expert witnesses are engaged to provide reports and testimony for all these cases. CONTACT nathan@AfricanHRC.org