In our experience providing counseling, citizenship, and employment services to Cameroonians, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) has heard their stories about the torture they experienced in Cameroon, the challenges they experienced with the U.S. asylum process, and their fears about their fate if they were to return.
We have heard from many individuals who, tragically, would much prefer to take their own life than to be deported to Cameroon where they would face torture and death. These incidences are steadily increasing as they observe the fate of other Cameroonians whose asylum cases are denied.
We also see their perseverance and hard-fought resiliency. Paul* fled Cameroon after being imprisoned and tortured by the Cameroonian military. He experienced PTSD, including thoughts of self-harm and taking his own life at times. Through counseling, Paul learned how to manage negative thoughts associated with memories of past trauma. Less than a year after being released from detention, he gained full-time employment, established their own home, and enrolled in a local community college.
The U.S. asylum system was built to provide a safe haven for those fleeing life or death, such as the situation for so many from Cameroon. Yet, in the past two years, the U.S. government has rejected asylum claims for many Cameroonians, deporting hundreds of individuals, separating families, and sending those seeking safety back to harm, persecution, and in some cases certain death.
Recent reports about the torture, imprisonment, and abuses experienced by deported Cameroonians at the hands of their government underscore our broken immigration system. When families flee life or death situations and travel thousands of miles on circuitous, dangerous routes to apply for asylum at our borders, it is imperative that they receive due process. We elevate their voices and call on the Biden Administration to stop the deportations of Cameroonians and extend lifesaving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Cameroonians in the United States.
*Name has been changed to protect individual’s identity.