The situation in Cameroon is dire, and grows more unstable by the day. Violence and instability in the country make it unsafe for Cameroonians living in the United States to return; Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is designed to offer protection from dangerous situations exactly like this.
Caught between a political conflict rooted in a repressive regime and multiple humanitarian crises, Cameroonians are facing widespread violence and human rights violations, including kidnappings, rape, torture, and the razing of schools, villages and homes. Armed conflict in the country’s Far North, a political and human rights crisis in the country’s Anglophone regions, shortages of food, water, healthcare and housing as well as the government’s continued violent crackdown on political opposition, make it impossible for Cameroonians to return to their home country safely. These dangerous and deadly conditions warrant a designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for the country. The Biden Administration must act fast to help save lives and keep families, individuals and communities safe and together.
TPS is a critical program that provides many immigrants and asylum seekers an opportunity to remain in the U.S. and work so long as conditions in their home countries remain unsafe for them to return. DED is a similar form of temporary relief granted by the President in coordination with the U.S. State Department.
To date, the Biden Administration has taken steps to extend TPS and DED protections for some immigrants from countries devastated by natural disaster and war, and it must go further to provide these protections for individuals from a number of African nations in crisis, including Cameroon. Members of Congress from both houses have repeatedly pressed the Administration to provide such protections to Cameroonian nationals in light of the country’s ongoing crises.
“A humanitarian crisis and civil war characterized by massive internal displacement, war crimes, and shortages of essentials like water, food, healthcare, and housing make safe return impossible, and we must act quickly to extend protection against deportation to Cameroonian nationals in the United States .”
Multiple humanitarian crises involving terrorist group Boko Haram, government forces, and armed non-state groups have caused widespread violence and human rights violations against Cameroonians, causing immense loss of life, incalculable human suffering, and displacement. In fact, as of December 2021, nearly 1 million people inside Cameroon are estimated to be internally displaced. Cameroon, which already hosts a large number of refugees inside its border due to ongoing conflicts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR), and the current violence inside the country is experiencing a scarcity of essential needs like food and clean water, shelter, and medical services. Recent deadly clashes over resources have displaced even more vulnerable people.
In the Far North region, Boko Haram regularly carries out kidnappings and killings, including suicide attacks targeting schools and civilians; since the insurgency began in 2009, at least 3,000 Cameroonians have been killed. In addition to Boko Haram’s attacks on schools in the Far North, schools have been targeted by armed non-state groups in the Anglophone North-West and South-West regions with lethal results, while government forces have also contributed to some violent incidents. The Cameroonian government’s continued repressive measures including crackdowns on political opposition and free speech, as well as its use of incommunicado detention, has compounded the suffering of Cameroonian nationals.
Conflict in the Anglophone regions has internally displaced more than 570,000 Cameroonians inside the North-West and South-West, and pushed over 70,000 more vulnerable people to seek refuge in Nigeria. The Cameroonian government’s brutal crackdown on protests led by Anglophone teachers, students, and lawyers, who protested unfair treatment and marginalization by the majority Francophone Government, contributed to the forming of armed non-state groups and a deadly conflict. In recent years, the violence has escalated to such an extent that – between government forces and armed non-state groups – horrifying human rights violations like kidnapping, rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the burning of schools, infrastructure, or even entire villages have become commonplace. Since the conflict began in late 2016, at least 4,000 civilians have been killed in the country’s Anglophone regions alone.
Bipartisan leaders in Congress have called for action to end the violence in Cameroon including Senators James Risch and Ben Cardin, who led passage of a resolution calling for an immediate end to the ongoing conflict. Further, Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Karen Bass have led bicameral efforts calling on the Biden Administration to provide protections for Cameroonians, and Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA – 19) and Hank Johnson (GA – 4) have introduced the Cameroon TPS Act of 2021. Additionally, the State Department has advised against travel to Cameroon. Failing to designate TPS or DED for Cameroon and deporting individuals to the country in the midst of violent conflict would have devastating human consequences for Cameroonians currently living in the U.S.
Providing the nearly 40,000 eligible Cameroonians estimated to be living in the United States with the opportunity to apply for relief, such as TPS and DED, would allow them to remain safe and together with their families in their communities. Extending these protections to Cameroonians will not only prevent people from being returned to harm, but will enrich American society.
The successes and benefits of TPS and DED are well-documented. TPS and DED holders set down roots, build families, develop careers, and enrich our country. Cameroonian nationals are vital members of our communities, and they should be afforded the opportunity to live and work safely in the United States while their country struggles to respond to and recover from multiple crises.
Non-refoulement, a core principle of international law that is incorporated into U.S. law, prohibits a country from returning an individual to any territory – particularly their country of origin – where their life or freedom is at risk. According to this principle, individuals fleeing persecution, including Cameroonians, have a legal right to seek protection in the United States, and should not in any circumstance be returned to a country engulfed in multiple violent conflicts, nor should they be pushed back to unsafe territories along their way to the U.S.
The Administration can and must do more to ensure Cameroonian and other Black immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are protected, particularly as many of these individuals have faced disparate impact of inhumane treatment such as prolonged detention and extreme violence, including torture, at the hands of U.S. immigration authorities. Ending its use of harsh deterrence policies such as Title 42, and expanding affirmative relief such as humanitarian parole and refugee admissions for the continent of Africa would provide additional avenues for vulnerable people to obtain relief and safety.
The United States has the opportunity to secure the safety of Cameroonian nationals, and it can take steps right now to provide protections for these individuals living in the U.S., starting with designating TPS or DED for Cameroon. Doing so is not only in line with international and U.S. law, but it will enrich American communities, while demonstrating humane leadership on the world stage.
To learn more about the need to designate TPS or DED for Cameroon please visit the Cameroon Advocacy Network where you can take action, including signing this petition calling on the Biden Administration to designate TPS for Cameroon.