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Cameroonian asylum seekers deported from the U.S. back to their home country were subjected to serious human rights violations between 2019 and 2021, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Thursday.
In late 2019, immigration judges increasingly denied asylum to Cameroonians. Cubans, Congolese (DRC), Eritreans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and Venezuelans were also denied after the Trump Administration’s third-country transit asylum ban.
The transit ban stopped refugees who travel through third countries en route to seek protection at the U.S. southern border. It also raised the standard in preliminary fear screenings to preclude thousands of refugees from applying for asylum.
More than 80 Cameroonian asylum seekers who were deported suffered torture and rape to enforced disappearance after returning home.
In the 149-page report titled, “‘How Can You Throw Us Back?’: Asylum Seekers Abused in the U.S. and Deported to Harm in Cameroon,” as many as 90 Cameroonians were deported from the United States on two flights in October and November 2020.
Some of the deportees were activists from the country’s anglophone minority. After being targeted for their political activities by government forces, they fled the country, seeking safety in the U.S. At the time, their attorneys referred to returning flights as the “death planes.”
Upon their arrival, deportees say they faced arbitrary arrest and detention. They also endured enforced disappearances; torture, rape, and other violence; extortion; unfair prosecutions; confiscation of their national I.D.s, harassment and abuses against their relatives.
“The U.S. 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 U.S. governments need to remedy these abuses, and U.S. authorities should provide opportunities for wrongly deported Cameroonians to return and reapply for asylum.”
Almost a year ago to the day, more than 40 Democratic members of Congress wrote a letter to President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking them to grant temporary protected status to Cameroonians living in the U.S.
The letter urged the Biden Administration to place an 18-month pause on their deportations.
The request for TPS has not been granted.