Equatorial Guinea has begun deporting thousands of Cameroonians who were residing in the country illegally, citing national security concerns. Authorities in the capital Malabo said the Cameroonians fled conflict in western Cameroon, where government troops have been fighting anglophone separatists. Hundreds of those already deported are trying to return to Equatorial Guinea to gather their belongings.
About 40 people in Kiossi, a Cameroonian southern commercial town, want to enter neighboring Equatorial Guinea this Tuesday morning. Among them is Philippe Oyono, a 33-year-old building material shop owner.
Owono said police in Equatorial Guinea forcefully removed him from his home in the town of Bata. He said he was sent back to Cameroon on November 5 alongside 65 other Cameroonians.
He said he is pleading that President Paul Biya of Cameroon raises their concerns with President Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea so that authorities can allow undocumented migrants who have been deported to Cameroon to return to Equatorial Guinea and gather their belongings. Oyono said it is not common for Equatorial Guinea to deport mothers and fathers without their children and merchants without their goods.
Government officials in Cameroon’s South region say at least 600 Cameroonians have been deported from neighboring Equatorial Guinea in the past month.
This week, Cameroon said it had negotiated with Equatorial Guinea to give undocumented migrants three months to get residency permits or to voluntarily return to Cameroon.
Cameroon’s ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, Desire Jean Claude Owono Menguele, said about a thousand Cameroonians have opted to voluntarily return.
Last week, Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice president and son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, said concerns about rising theft and banditry are behind Equatorial Guinea’s decisoin to ask undocumented migrants to leave.
He spoke on Radio Malabo, Equatorial Guinea’s state radio while addressing a crowd that supports deportation.
Mangue said he is surprised that the decision the government of Equatorial Guinea has taken to deport undocumented migrants is generating controversy and criticism. He said rising insecurity in Equatorial Guinea has pushed President Obiang Nguema to ask all undocumented migrants and those who have criminal records, including violence and theft, to leave. Mangue said Equatorial Guinea, like other countries, will not tolerate undocumented migrants.
Mangue added that legitimate refugees, including those fleeing separatist crisis in Cameroon, will not be affected by the deportations. However, he said some people displaced by the crisis in the Central African Republic and Cameroon prefer to hide within the community and work instead of registering as refugees.
In September, Equatorial Guinea announced that it was to deport all undocumented migrants from countries, including Nigerians, Cameroonians, Chadians, Central Africans, Ghanaians and Kenyans.