KIOSSI, CAMEROON - Gabon has released 100 of some 500 Cameroonian, Chadian and Central African illegal immigrants detained for 10 months for unlawful mining. Some of the freed people say they were simple refugees from the CAR.
In Cameroon's border town of Kiossi, thirty of the migrants flushed out of Gabon look tired, hungry and sick. Twenty-four-year-old Ibrahim Alaman, who says he left his native Chad to look for a job in Gabon, tells VOA that he spent a month in the dispensary of the prison in Libreville but was not treated for rashes all over his body.
He says there was no medical assistance in the prison and is calling on those who can to help him and other refugees who are still detained in Gabon.
Imvram Zhouli, a refugee from the Central African Republic, says he and those with him were arrested during a raid organized by Gabonese authorities. He says that after being abused by the police, they were transferred to the town of Oyem, where they spent three days before returning to Bitam to be judged.
He says he does not know why he was arrested and imprisoned for 10 months when Gabonese authorities know that in the CAR there is war, there is insecurity and it is very difficult to live.
Zhouli adds that the rights of the migrants were never respected in prison.
He says they really suffered and prison conditions in Gabon are horrible.
According to the ex-prisoners, the police raids targeted people illegally residing in Gabon. A total of 500 individuals from African countries including Mali and Benin were arrested.
Eighteen-year-old Linda Kummani, who is also from the CAR, says she had asked for asylum after fleeing the carnage in her country but the Gabon police did not take that into consideration.
"I am a refugee from Central African Republic and I asked for asylum in Gabon but they instead arrested me for seven months and maltreated me there. I don't understand why they maltreated me there while I was still suffering [there are still sufferings] in my country Central Africa," she said.
Among the ex-prisoners arriving here in Kiossi were 24 Cameroonians. Thirty-four-year old Leonard Khibi told VOA that seven of them were too sick to return to Kiossi.
"It is by the grace of God that we are alive. The people maltreated us. Even to eat, we eat rice everyday during the 8 months we spent there. They even refuse to give us tablets [treat us when we are sick]," he said.
Official documents required
The governor of Cameroon's South Region, Jules Marcellin Ndjaga, told VOA that Cameroonians should avoid traveling to Gabon without their official documents.
"They have a very beautiful country. They have to stay here in their country and if they go out one day, they must respect the laws and regulations of that country," he said.
Equatorial Guinea also recently expelled hundreds of Cameroonians for failing to produce residence permits.
The move has been interpreted as a violation of the terms governing the movement of goods and people in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC.
Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Chad and Congo Brazzaville are members of the bloc.