The therapy of asylum seekers in Cameroon within the US is "synonymous with torture," legal professionals say
Welcome to While You Were Not Looking, the weekly foreign policy update on new global stories.
Here's what we're looking at this week: Details of a complaint Abuse against Cameroonian asylum seekers US immigration and customs officials are widening the divide between the US Leaders of France and Turkey, and why Nigeria's #endSARS protests could mark an important turning point.
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Asylum seekers are exposed to violent ICE coercion
US immigration officials have threatened, sprayed, beaten and suffocated asylum seekers from Cameroon in order to force them to sign their own deportation orders, the Guardian reports. A coalition of advocacy groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint earlier this month describing a "pattern of coercion" by ICE agents in a Mississippi detention center that was described as "synonymous with torture."
According to several reports in the complaint, immigration officers used coercive tactics to force detainees to sign documents that would waive their right to further immigration hearings. As a result, at least one person was hospitalized.
A man identified by the initials C.A. describes how officers broke their fingers when they tried to put his fingerprint on a document. The officers grabbed me, forced me to the ground, and sprayed my eyes with pepper. I cried, "I can't breathe" because they were forcibly laying on me and their body weight was pressing on me. My eyes were so hot. They pulled me outside with both hands, ”said the person who was prevented from speaking to his lawyer before the document was signed.
C.A. was put on a deportation flight on October 13, but was one of two Cameroonians dragged off the plane shortly before take-off as an investigation into allegations of abuse had begun. At least 100 asylum seekers, including many from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were deported on the same flight.
After the European Union slowed the arrival of asylum seekers and migrants, Cameroonians and other Africans turned to the United States through South America. However, this is not the first time Cameroonian detainees have raised concerns about their treatment there. In February, more than 40 Cameroonians went on hunger strike at Pine Prairie Detention Center, Louisiana, alleging that ICE had made "biased and illegal efforts" to deny them parole and denial of their parole requests, and "unfairly" biased "decisions by an immigration judge .
For two consecutive years, the Norwegian Refugee Council has classified Cameroon as the most neglected displacement crisis in the world due to an uprising in the north and brutal government action against two English-speaking separatist regions. Since 2016, the two conflicts have killed over 3,000 people and displaced more than 700,000. At least seven children were killed on Saturday when armed men stormed a bilingual private school in Kumba, Anglophone region. No group took responsibility for the attack, but local authorities have accused separatist fighters.
Human rights activists say Cameroonian asylum seekers are at significant risk if they are deported to the country. The severity of the threat is reflected in U.S. immigration courts: 80 percent of Cameroonians won their asylum applications in fiscal 2019, compared with the average of 29 percent, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Macron-Erdogan spat deeper. The French Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that it would call back its ambassador to Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned French President Emmanuel Macron's mental health and his stance on Muslims. Tensions between the two NATO members have intensified in recent months due to the conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh and Turkey's energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
Earlier this month, Macron described Islam as "in crisis" around the world and said a new law later this year would reinforce the strict separation of church and state in France. Macron's statements were sharply rebuked throughout the Islamic world and called for a boycott of French products. Macron's comments came after a French teacher was beheaded after showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in class.
Nigeria's growing protests. At least 12 protesters were shot dead last Tuesday when police opened fire on protesters at two different locations in Lagos, Nigeria. The latest protests against police brutality began on October 3 after a video was released of a young man who was shot dead by a SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) officer in Delta state. The force has been accused for years of brutal human rights abuses, including extrajudicial murders. Despite the October 11 announcement that it would disband SARS, protests continued and major governance reforms called for in the country.
When protests broke out around the world after the police murder of George Floyd in May, Patrick Egwu wrote for Foreign Policy that the brutality of the police in Nigeria went unnoticed. “Whenever someone is killed by the police in Nigeria, there are fancy hashtag activities for a few days for justice trends. A moment later everything returns to normal and life goes on, ”he wrote. The recent wave of # EndSARS protests could prove to be a tipping point as they have become a lightning rod for youth discontent with the country's ruling elite.
Hopes for peace in Libya. The two main factions in the Libyan civil war agreed on a nationwide ceasefire in the US-backed talks in Geneva on Friday. Previous attempts to broker an end to the longstanding conflict have failed, but the new agreement has cautiously raised hopes that it will lay the foundation for a peace deal. The ceasefire, signed by the Tripoli-based government of the National Agreement and General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army, calls on all frontline forces to return to their bases within three months and withdraw all mercenaries and foreign troops.
The Libyan conflict has attracted a wide variety of international actors, including Russia, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Your actions in the months ahead could make or break the truce. The United Nations today announced the launch of the Libyan Forum for Political Dialogue to facilitate discussions within the country and lay the groundwork for national elections.
The Venezuelan opposition figure is fleeing. After the Venezuelan oppositionist Leopoldo López sought refuge in the residence of the Spanish ambassador for 18 months, he fled the country on Saturday and is expected to come to his family in Spain today. He was arrested in 2014 when mass anti-government protests began and was released in 2017 while under house arrest. As a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, López helped orchestrate behind the scenes the opposition's drive to question the legitimacy of Maduro's rule in early 2019.
His departure leaves Guaidó without a key ally as Maduro attempts to suppress the opposition ahead of the December 6 general election.
With friends like that. Last Thursday the Trump administration signed a declaration against abortion along with 32 other countries including Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Hungary and Uganda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar attended a virtual signing ceremony for the Geneva Consensus Declaration declaring "there is no international right to abortion". The document contradicts the statement by the United States Human Rights Council that access to abortion is a human right.
CO2 neutral Japan. In his first speech to parliament since taking office last month, Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to make the country climate neutral by 2050. Japan, the world's fifth largest carbon emitter, has been criticized for continuing to build coal-fired power plants: 17 new coal-fired power plants are currently planned or under construction.
In 2019, the European Union announced plans to become climate neutral by 2050. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China, the world's worst polluter, aims to achieve the same goal by 2060. The announcements have taken the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in sharp relief.
A new president in the Seychelles. An opposition candidate has won the presidency in the Seychelles for the first time since the archipelago gained independence from the United Kingdom over four decades ago. Wavel Ramkalawan, chairman of the Democratic Alliance of Seychelles and Anglican priest, was elected president and his party won two-thirds of the seats in parliament in the general election held last week. Incumbent President Danny Faure, whose party has been in power since the late 1970s, admitted defeat. The US State Department described the election as "another important milestone in the democracy of the Seychelles".
That's it for this week.
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