Cameroon says Equatorial Guinea has deported several hundred Cameroonians, some of whom say they were fleeing terrorist and rebel attacks at home. The government of Equatorial Guinea says the deportees were economic migrants and is planning to deport 7,000 Cameroonians in all by the end of the year.
Scores of Cameroonians applauded Monday while welcoming back at least 200 of their citizens who were deported. But the well-wishers are not happy with Equatorial Guinea’s actions. Civilians shouted that by deporting Cameroonians, the oil-rich country is being indifferent to people who have rendered services as mechanics, electricians, bricklayers, miners and other types of workers.
Nguenang Rigobert, one of the deported Cameroonians, says he lost his teaching job in Equatorial Guinea. Nguenang says he, like many Cameroonians in Equatorial Guinea, are victims of what he calls the Cameroon government’s lack of interest in the plight of its citizens outside the country. He says Cameroon should have negotiated for Equatorial Guinea to give Cameroonians more time to acquire resident and work permits.
Nguenang said several dozen of the deported Cameroonians fled their country in part because of its ongoing separatist crisis. Others left because of Boko Haram terrorism in the north.
Some deportees said they were tortured and their property looted in Equatorial Guinea. Others said they spent several nights in detention centers and were freed after agreeing to return to Cameroon unconditionally.
Nouhou Bello, the most senior Cameroon government official in Ocean, the administrative unit where Campo is located, says President Paul Biya asked him to receive the deported civilians and make sure they travel to their towns and villages in peace.
Bello says Cameroonians who have arrived in Campo since Friday have confirmed to government officials that they were in the neighboring state illegally. He says some of the deportees told officials their visas had expired while others acknowledged lacking travel documents when they went to Equatorial Guinea.
Bello called on Cameroonians staying in Equatorial Guinea illegally to return home or risk being locked up.
Earlier in October, the government of Equatorial Guinea said it would embark on a mass deportation of people living illegally in its territory.
Officials said insecurity has mounted due to an influx of about 30,000 economic migrants within the past three years. Equatorial Guinea accused job-seeking youths, especially from Cameroon and Nigeria, of harassment, theft and armed banditry.
Essomba Innocent is an economic analyst at the National University of Equatorial Guinea. He says in January 2020, the country signaled that it did not want illegal economic migrants in its territory and laid the foundation stone for construction of a border wall with Cameroon.
Essomba says in June 2020, Equatorial Guinea agreed to pause the construction of the controversial wall after Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Central African Republic agreed to voluntarily repatriate their citizens living in Equatorial Guinea illegally. He says people who are being deported should not ask the government of Equatorial Guinea for compensation for goods they acquired when their stay was illegal.
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny central African nation of around 1.5 million people. The International Monetary Fund reports that the nation took in approximately $45 billion in oil revenues between 2000 and 2013, catapulting it from one of the world’s poorest countries to the one with the highest per capita income on the African continent.