Over two weeks since 57 Cameroonian asylum-seekers landed at the Douala international airport from Texas, USA, their whereabouts remain unknown to family members and the press.
According to a reliable source at the airport police service, “We received 57 Cameroonians who were seeking asylum in the US. They got back to the country on the 14th of October 2020. They were forty-seven men and ten women. After COVID-19 tests, all of them were negative. On instructions from the hierarchy, they were transported to Ngodi Bakoko low-cost houses. They were lodged there for two days before they were handed over to their families”.
Following a visit to the Ngodi Bakoko low-cost houses by a Mimi Mefo Info team, it is now clear that these Cameroonians in question are no longer lodged there.
A police source, however, said he is unaware of rumors of interrogation, torture, and detention of those repatriated.
According to a Cameroonian human rights lawyer, sensitive issues as such are usually handled by the secret service best known in French as “Surveillance du Territoire” with an office in Bonanjo Douala.
“Sometimes people are taken and kept incommunicado for months by the secret service. As a secret service answerable only to the presidency in Yaoundé, they don’t follow the criminal procedure code in carrying out judicial activities. These people from the US are detained in private buildings but no one knows. Some of them have been released but others are still in detention,” a trusted source said.
The lawyer explained that the secret service is charged with investigating people who have something that involves tarnishing the image or the sovereignty of the state. To him, asylum seekers may be detained to find out more about how and why they left the country and various reasons they presented to the US government to permit them to gain permanent stay in the USA.
It is believed that “…the secret service can even kill a detainee and no one will know”.
Given that illegal emigration in Cameroon is considered an offense, our legal source has stated that those repatriated can be prosecuted by the state of Cameroon. Besides that, if the security service discovers anyone they have been hunting for in the group, then he or she will answer questions.
Before the arrival of the asylum seekers, the government through the national media had already described them as illegal migrants that have taken advantage of the war in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon to seek a permanent stay in the United States of America.
Now, Cameroonians are questioning the whereabouts of these people repatriated from the USA. They argue that others have been repatriated from Nigeria and Libya and handed over to their families without any issue.
Another group of asylum seekers is expected in Douala on the 13th of November.
Cameroonians have been criticizing the US government for initiating the repatriation process of Cameroonians that are running away from several atrocities in the country.