US to send asylum seekers home to Cameroon despite 'death plane' warnings

3 weeks ago

The US is expected to fly Cameroonian asylum seekers back to their home country on Tuesday despite fears that their lives will be at risk and reports that deportees repatriated last month are now missing. Some of the deportees are activists from the country’s anglophone minority, who face arrest warrants for their political activities from government forces with a well documented record of extrajudicial killings. They and their lawyers refer to Tuesday’s flight as the “death plane”. Lawyers, human rights groups and Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen have appealed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to halt deportation flights to Cameroon while political violence is still widespread there and while at least some of the detainees have cases pending or motions to reopen cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals. They expressed concern that the deportations were being rushed to clear African asylum-seekers out of the country by the end of the Trump presidency, as part of a scorched earth policy in the administration’s final weeks. There are also reports of systematic abuse by agents of the DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often to force the asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders, and waive their right to pending immigration hearings. In one case, detainees were allegedly put under showers and then tasered by ICE agents, leaving some in need of hospital care. The deportations are taking place despite a finding last year by the US government that the Cameroon government “engages in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”. The state department deferred questions about the upcoming deportations to ICE, which did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend. About 32 men and four women are scheduled to be on Tuesday’s flight, mostly Cameroonian, but also some Congolese and Angolan asylum seekers. In recent days they have been moved from prisons across the south to Prairieland Detention Centre in Alvarado, Texas, in preparation for a charter flight out of Fort Worth. One of those due to be deported, Daniel, said his brother had been shot in 2019 by Cameroonian security services searching for him, and his father had been crippled by torture in prison. His other siblings are missing“I will be killed by the Cameroon government,” Daniel told the Guardian by telephone from Prairieland. He was a member of a separatist group called the Southern Cameroon National Council. It describes itself as a non-violent group but he said many of his fellow members had been killed or imprisoned, in the counter-insurgency the government is waging against anglophone separatists. He said he was sent a photograph of his brother’s body while he was in detention. Daniel said he was detained and tortured in 2014, and then arrested again in 2017, but he bribed his way out of prison and fled the country, eventually finding his way, after a transatlantic flight and a gruelling, dangerous trek across South and

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