The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE has cancelled a deportation flight that was supposed to bring home about 60 Cameroonian asylum seekers from the US.
The flight which was supposed to arrive Yaounde on Thursday, January 4 was cancelled at the last minute so that would-be deportees can be interviewed as witnesses, the agency said in a statement citing accusations of alleged brutal treatment of the deportees by ICE agents .
The plane carrying Cameroonian, Angolan and Congolese asylum seekers was due to take off from Alexandria, Louisiana, at 3pm(local time) on Wednesday but was cancelled with minutes to spare.
Two days before the flight, a coalition of immigration advocacy groups published affidavits by Cameroonian detainees saying they had been assaulted by Ice officers and forced to put their fingerprints on documents authorising their own deportation to a country where they believed they risked prison, torture or extrajudicial killing, the Guardian reported.
The report refers to multiple reports of Cameroonians deported by the Trump administration in October and November have been jailed, tortured or disappeared by a government fighting a brutal counter-insurgency against anglophone separatists in the (North)west and South (West)of the country.
During the first set of deportations in October, the ICE was accused of torture though it denied all allegations and did not change its policy of accelerated deportation of African and Caribbean asylum seekers. On Thursday, an Ice spokesperson signalled a change in stance.
Cameroon’s Ministry of External Relations had already informed authorities at the Douala International Airport to take necessary dispositions to receive at least 60 Cameroonians who will arrive the country on Thursday via a deportation flight. The whereabouts of other asylum seekers who were returned to Cameroon late last year are still unknown.