The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that it has designated Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This news was long awaited and will provide temporary relief from deportation, as well as work permits, to thousands of Cameroonians in the United States.
DHS cited ongoing armed conflict and other “extraordinary and temporary conditions” in Cameroon that prevent safe return. Human Rights Watch, the Cameroon Advocacy Network, and scores of other advocates, notably from Black-led immigrant rights groups, have pushed for this designation for years based on the generalized risks of serious harm in Cameroon, where violence and humanitarian crises affect multiple regions.
People deported to Cameroon also face risks because of their real or perceived opposition to the government. I spoke to dozens of Cameroonians deported by the US between 2019 and 2021 and documented how many faced serious human rights violations upon return, including arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, extortion, and unfair prosecutions. Our investigation found that many had been unfairly denied asylum by US immigration courts.
Today, Cameroonians in the US who have lived in fear of imminent deportation said they feel like they can finally breathe. “I was almost deported myself [last year], but was taken off the plane,” one man said. “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.”
The TPS designation will last for 18 months and applies to Cameroonians residing in the US as of April 14, though they cannot apply for TPS until the federal register notice is published. DHS should ensure this happens as quickly as possible, facilitate the release of detained Cameroonians, and issue a moratorium on all deportations to Cameroon.
The US government should also provide opportunities for recently deported Cameroonians to return, as many remain in urgent need of assistance.
“I have been thinking of those that were deported, who are facing prosecution and retaliation from our government,” another Cameroonian in the US told me today. “TPS is important to me, especially now that I lost my [asylum] case…. It has been a nightmare, but now I feel safe. 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.”