Cameroonians living in the US who lived in fear of imminent deportation have been given an 18-month reprieve by the US government, according to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict in Cameroon, and we will provide temporary protection to those in need,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
“Cameroonian nationals currently residing in the US who cannot safely return due to the extreme violence perpetrated by government forces and armed separatists, and a rise in attacks led by Boko Haram, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve,” he said in a statement.
Human rights groups in the US and Cameroon have been lobbying for this Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for years due to the Anglophone Crisis and the violence carried out by Boko Haram in the far north of the country.
“This marks the first time the Secretary of DHS will permit qualifying nationals of Cameroon to remain temporarily in the United States pursuant to a TPS designation of that country,” according to the statement.
Cameroonians deported from the US between 2019 and 2021 told rights group Human Rights Watch that they had faced serious human rights violations upon their return, including arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, extortion and unfair prosecutions.
The rights group said that after investigating the cases of those who were deported, many were unfairly denied asylum by the US immigration courts.
“I was almost deported myself [last year], but was taken off the plane,” one man told Human Rights Watch. “Thinking of the fact that there were many Cameroonians deported who faced hard times in jails in Cameroon.... God has spared me. With this [TPS] news, it's like a new day.”
This reprieve, which Cameroonian asylum seekers already in the US can apply for, will last 18 months, but will only start once a federal register is published. Those eligible and in detention will be released once they receive the TPS designation.
The US government should also provide opportunities for recently deported Cameroonians to return, as many remain in urgent need of assistance.
It has been a nightmare, but now I feel safe,” one Cameroonian told Human Rights Watch.
However, I will only be satisfied when the US government does something about my brothers that were deported, and those of us who have been unjustly treated by the immigration court system.”