Deportation of Cameroonian Asylum Seekers: US makes a dramatic regression in the protection of human rights
On the 14th of October 2020, an airplane carrying onboard over 100 asylum seekers from the United States landed in the Douala International Airport in Cameroon into the waiting hands of the Cameroonian authorities stationed at the airport. Their fate is now a mystery.
Leaving one’s home country as a migrant to settle in and start living in another country has always been a challenging venture. It becomes not only challenging but difficult, daunting, and risky when you must flee from your country without prior notice due to persecution or war. Danger or menace to one’s life or that of your family members is a major reason for fleeing these days. One, therefore, flees from danger from their home country to become a refugee by seeking asylum.
The word ‘Asylum’ is a Latin form of the Greek word ‘asylon’ which in English means ‘freedom from…’ It is true that in International Law, states are not bound by any obligation to grant asylum to a refugee. However, nations are bound by the principle of non- refoulement as defined in article 33 of the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees which prohibits the expulsion or return of refugees to areas they have fled from.
The case in hand is, therefore, a flagrant violation of the above-named convention. The United States should know better. It is rewarding that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Germany, and many EU nations, still hold close to their hearts the protection of human rights and freedoms especially those of refugees and asylum seekers.
It has been before now, common knowledge that the United States, Britain, and France as allies, are among the best in the world when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedoms as well as the protection of refugees and asylum seekers. This writer is confident that if this were in the United Kingdom, the outcome would have been different at least not until all due processes followed and with strict respect for the rule of law.
With the recent deportation of vulnerable asylum seekers by the United States government to Cameroon, the United States has moved one step away from this prestigious circle of rights defenders. It is no news anywhere in the world that what is going on in the former British Southern Cameroons in particular, and Cameroon in general does not only constitute human rights abuses but genocide in gestation.
This writer has reason to believe that by this singular act, the US has shown the world that it partners the dictatorial regime in Yaoundé. What other reason can be given to justify sending asylum seekers back to a country they have fled from in the middle of a war?
It is equally worth noting that this group of mostly Former British Southern Cameroons asylum seekers was deliberately transferred months ago by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the T. Don Hutto Residential Centre in Taylor, Texas. A detention facility that has been noted and stands out for its several allegations of human rights abuses and other degrading treatments of refugees and asylum seekers.
Based on recent figures from the UN High Commissioner for refugees, there has been a 56% increase in the number of people seeking political asylum from the Cameroons. And that number has increased since November 2016 due to the ongoing war in Former British Southern Cameroons.
It remains really strange and inexplicable how with all the statistics and evidence available on the ongoing crisis in Cameroon, and despite letters from some congressmen and women asking for the process to be delayed for more evidence, the Texas officials succeeded in deporting helpless asylum seekers to Cameroon, a country where the abuse of human rights has become a norm and a daily occurrence.
This process of deportation has smeared the dreadful image of the United States’ already injured human rights image. The country has missed an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it does not side with the regime Yaoundé regime.
Nelson Agbor is an International Human Rights Law Scholar. He holds a Master of Laws (LLM), from Hertfordshire Law School, UK. He is currently a Doctoral Research Student, International Human Rights Law at Plymouth University, UK.