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 allegations 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”.
About 38 men and 10 women are scheduled to be on Tuesday’s flight, 37 of them Cameroonian, but also six Angolan and three Congolese 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.