Save This Refugee From Torture, Execution: Bring Kenneth to Canada

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Cameroonian refugee “Kenneth” was supposed to be brought to Fort Erie, Ontario for a scheduled October 30, 2020 risk assessment interview that, upon completion, would likely allow him entry to Canada and save him from almost certain death. Unfortunately, Canada and the USA have yet to work out the details for that transfer. We need Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Global Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to work with their U.S. counterparts to ensure that Kenneth – held for over 2 years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention – is transported to the border and not left in detention, from where he could be deported to torture and execution at any time. Two weeks ago, over 60 Cameroonian refugees facing similar fates were deported from the United States. Kenneth was on that “death plane” but taken off at the very last minute. We cannot risk him being placed on another flight that may not allow him such a last-minute reprieve.

Kenneth has been offered free housing, a job, and community support by a group in London, Ontario. Whether he receives a chance at a new life free from persecution, torture, and the ever-present threat of death is very much in the hands of Canadian officials who must ensure that, in cooperation with their U.S. counterparts, he is brought from his current ICE detention facility to the Fort Erie Port of Entry as soon as possible.

BACKGROUND

The issue of genocide against Anglophone Cameroonians has been the focus of international outrage for the past several years. Not only are Cameroonians tortured and violated in their own country, they have undergone similar experiences by ICE as refugees in U.S. detention centres. The deteriorating situation in Cameroon – which rises to the level of crimes against humanity – was the focus of a well-documented joint study by the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (https://www.raoulwallenbergcentre.org/newsfeed/2019/6/4/release-of-landmark-report-on-unfolding-catastrophe-in-cameroon?rq=Cameroon and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa.

Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Amy Milles stated Canada condemns “violent acts and deplore the significant loss of human life since the beginning of tensions in both regions” of Cameroon ( https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2019/06/10/canada-deeply-concerned-about-escalation-of-violence-in-cameroon/ )

On October 9, 2020, Amnesty International USA’s deputy director of Advocacy and Government Relations Adotei Akwei stated, “Given the current conditions in the country, it is extremely likely that anyone who is returned to Cameroon will face a high risk of being detained, beaten, disappeared , tortured, or even killed.” Amnesty further called on the U.S. Government “to halt all deportations during this deadly pandemic and are alarmed that it is pursuing these deportations to Cameroon. The United States has both a legal and moral imperative to welcome those fleeing conflict and persecution to the country.” (https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/the-u-s-must-not-deport-people-to-cameroon/

Despite this call, the US subsequently organized a deportation flight with many Cameroonian refugees aboard. Kenneth was placed on that notorious deportation flight two weeks ago but removed at the last minute (this same flight is the subject of a major multi-individual complaint launched by a series of US immigrant rights groups for coercive ICE mistreatment tantamount to torture: (see https://www.splcenter.org/presscenter/ice-using-torture-against-cameroonian-immigrants-coerce-deportation-according-new )

THE CASE AT HAND

Kenneth fled Cameroon as a member of the English-speaking minority, who face marginalization and persecution by the government. Following his participation in peaceful political protests that were violently attacked by government forces, he was sought by authorities, arrested, and beaten in jail. His family home was attacked and his sister raped by military forces. After escaping, he learned that he was the subject of a warrant issued by the Cameroon Ministry of Justice. He faces charges of Secession, Insurrection and Hostility against the Fatherland under Sections 111, 116, and 102 of the Penal Code (all for taking part in peaceful protests). Under Cameroonian law, Secession is punishable by imprisonment for life, or by death when there is a state of emergency; Insurrection is punishable by imprisonment for ten to twenty years; and Hostility against the Fatherland is punishable by death. 

Affidavits from a family lawyer, village chief, and family members subsequent to Kenneth’s  escaping Cameroon attest to the fact that he is still wanted by authorities, and that the family itself has faced continued repression as a result, including beatings, the arrest and indefinite detention of a brother, the burning down of the family home, and the resultant need for remaining family members to live in hiding in the bush.

Kenneth passed his credible fear interview in the United States, and his Canadian counsel points out that:

“The facts as laid out and the documentary evidence available in his file would greatly assist a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Officer in establishing, on a balance of probabilities, that Kenneth  would, if forced to return to Cameroon, face a reasonable chance of persecution and also would be subject to a substantial risk to his life as well as a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment (as defined in the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (96a, 97a). Notably, the Act specifically states that it must be read and interpreted in a manner that ‘complies with international human rights instruments to which Canada is signatory.’ This includes the Convention Against Torture and the Refugee Convention."

In addition, Kenneth’s record indicates that he would also be eligible to enter Canada under the Public Interest Exception to the Canada/US Safe Third Country Agreement (refugees who can show “they have been charged with or convicted of an offence that could subject them to the death penalty in the U.S. or in a third country.”)

While it is appreciated that the Canadian Border Services Agency had scheduled the October 30 interview (and we trust the offer will remain open until Kenneth can be transported to Fore Erie), Ottawa must do more to ensure that Kenneth can actually appear. His life is now in the hands of the Canadian government. Please act immediately to ensure Kenneth is brought to Canada.

Thank you for signing and sharing this petition

Matthew Behrens

Rural Refugee Rights Network