Report says ICE officers tortured Cameroonian refugees in detention centers

Adams County, Mississippi - A number of immigration lawyers and human rights activists claim that Cameroonian refugees were made to sign their own deportation orders by ICE agents who beat and tortured them.  

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crest (stock image).
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crest (stock image).  © Chris Dorney/123rf

The report published by The Guardian cites several witnesses and organizations who accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers of hitting, chocking, and pepper-spraying detainees at the Adams County Correctional Center.

According to a legal complaint made by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the advocacy group Freedom For Immigrants, the alleged abuses took place in September and involved at least eight Cameroonian refugees.

One said he was "pepper-sprayed in the eyes" and chocked "almost to the point of death."

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Another claimed he was taken to a part of the facility that didn't have surveillance cameras, where he was also pepper-sprayed and held to the ground until he was close to suffocating: "I was crying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ because they were forcefully on top of me pressing their body weight on top of me. My eyes were so hot."

Those involved maintained that the violence was prompted by their refusal to sign away their own rights to asylum hearings. The lawsuit accused ICE agents of forcibly obtaining the detainees' fingerprints and using them in place of their signatures.

Some of those included in the complaint have already been deported to Cameroon. 

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Responding to allegations made earlier in October, ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox did not want to comment on specific cases and told The Associated Press that "in general, sensationalist unsubstantiated allegations are irresponsible, and should be treated with the greatest of skepticism."

Cameroonian and other African refugees have been deported with increasing speed in the past months. One flight from Texas with 86 people on board took off from Texas on October 13 and hundreds more are scheduled to be removed, according to attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Immigration lawyers often point out that many deportations are initiated as covertly as possible, without prior notice.

Speaking to The Guardian, one detainee said deportation to Cameroon would be a death sentence for him: “I live in worry because I don’t know what awaits me. I don’t even know what the next day is going to look like, and will I be taken back home.”

Cover photo: Chris Dorney/123rf

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