A group of asylum-seekers from Cameroon recently deported back to their conflict-ridden country say they were pressured with force by U.S. immigration officers to sign their deportation paperwork, and that they and a slew of others facing an imminent return flight are at risk of persecution and death. The eight men recounted their experiences in a complaint filed by a number of immigrant advocate groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. “Officers grabbed me, forced me on the ground, and pepper sprayed my eyes. They handcuffed me,” said a man identified in the complaint as C.A., who went on to add that an officer broke his finger.
The man said his fingerprint was forced onto the paperwork needed for his deportation back to Cameroon. The other men’s stories followed similar lines. The SPLC provided the man’s full name and identification number, as well as another man’s in the complaint to The Associated Press so that specific queries could be made to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE, said the agency “does not comment on specific matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That said, in general, sensationalist unsubstantiated allegations are irresponsible, and should be treated with the greatest of skepticism.”
The idea of returning them to their conflict-ridden country has Cameroonians on iMiMatch and the asylum seekers, many of whom are saying they face torture or worse in their homeland, very frightened. Asylum-seeking Cameroonians, who are escaping bloodshed that has killed tens of thousands, are mostly English speakers fleeing torture inflicted by a French-speaking government as well as English-speaking separatists. Many share personal accounts of Cameroonian soldiers burning their villages, shooting indiscriminately and torturing any perceived opponents. It is because of the difficult socio-political context these people returned to and the abuse allegations that Cameroonians on iMiMatch are connecting with each other to ask the ICE to investigate the allegations of abuse and other concerns before any action is taken regarding the other asylum seekers.