Supporters of Cameroonian Asylum-Seekers Decry US Deportation

More than 20 Cameroonians gathered Wednesday at the Douala International airport to await relatives expected to be deported from the United States.   Jennifer Mone, 27, says she fears her older brother will be at risk if he is forced back to Cameroon.   Last year, she says, he fled fighting in Cameroon’s anglophone separatist conflict.   “You are either afraid of separatist fighters or you are afraid of the military,” Mone said. “And leaving Cameroon and going to the U.S., maybe to seek asylum, and yet they want you back in Cameroon, where you do not have peace, you do not have any freedom.” Mone says she is looking for another country that will accept her and her brother.   Cameroon’s government has not confirmed the deportations or expected arrivals.   However, state Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) this week reported that a chartered flight was expected Wednesday from Dallas, Texas, with 126 deported asylum-seekers on board.   CRTV reported 86 people were Cameroonians and the rest were believed to be from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   In August, government-led protests in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, called for Washington to either charge or deport Cameroonians who allegedly were backing anglophone rebels.  Activist Hilda Manga participated in the protests and says those who were deported from the U.S. should be investigated and punished if they supported the separatists.   “That is a great initiative which must be applauded, because it is high time they are sent home to face charges and answer to the crimes they have committed,” she said. “They should return home and let’s see how together we can put an end to this crisis that has kept the masses suffering for four good years.” State mediaCameroon’s state media put a positive spin on the asylum-seekers’ return, and gave no indication as to when they would face arrest.   CRTV said the Cameroonians were needed to help rebuild the country and that authorities had sent medical experts to take care of them before, during and after their deportation.       Alexandra Lamarche, who works with Refugees International as a senior advocate for west and central Africa, says the deportations are appalling.  “In the case of many Cameroonians seeking asylum in the U.S., they have fled the country fearing attacks from the government. Many are from the conflict-ridden anglophone region, supported opposition parties, or have been vocal about the authorities’ poor human rights track record. Regardless of why they came, most of them will undoubtedly face retaliatory attacks from the government upon their return,” Lamarche said. Separatist conflictU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a policy does not comment on deportations until after they have occurred.   The Cameroonians entered the U.S. last year via South America and Mexico.   The administration of President Donald Trump has been cracking down on illegal immigration and making it harder for asylum claims to be approved.   Fighting broke out in 2016 after Cameroon’s military cracked down on anglophones calling for an independent state within the mainly French-speaking country. Cameroon’s English speakers say they are treated as second-class citizens and given fewer jobs and less support from the state. The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Cameroon’s separatist conflict and half a million others displaced.  

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