Political asylum seeker fears torture and detention if deported

Sheffield journalist married local charity worker two years ago, but must return to apply for spouse’s visa in Cameroon where he faces persecution. Film by Joe Bream and Marishka Van Steenbergen

An emergency protest has been held outside Sheffield Town Hall in support of Bernard Mboueyeu, who fears persecution and jail if he is deported to Cameroon first thing tomorrow, Monday 16 July.

Mboueyeu, who is currently being detained at Pennine House in Manchester, was arrested by the UK Border Agency on Tuesday morning. This is the second time he has been held, after being released and allowed to return to Sheffield just six weeks ago.

Mboueyeu fled his homeland of Cameroon in 2007 after he was allegedly beaten up and tortured by the ruling regime for supporting opposition groups. The treatment followed his arrest by President Paul Biya’s security forces for taking photographs of students being attacked during protests in 2006. Biya has been in power since 1982.

Supporters say that the journalist, who was working for a newspaper in southern Cameroon at the time, was stripped naked, beaten up and kept in jail for forty days. Mboueyeu’s wife Sharon, who lives in Wincobank, Sheffield, says:

They cut his feet with machetes – he’s still got the scars on his legs.

Mboueyeu married charity worker Sharon in 2010 but the Home Office is insisting that he returns to Cameroon to apply for a spouse’s visa. His supporters say that if he is returned as planned early tomorrow morning, he could be arrested, face torture, or be locked up indefinitely.

Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat Leader, who was at the Town Hall protest, says:

Mboueyeu has offered to return voluntarily to Cameroon if the Home Office guarantees his safety but the Home Office have refused to make that guarantee.

We think Bernard’s safety is at grave risk, if not his life. All because a bureaucrat would like a piece of paper to be sent from a foreign country.

Commenting on a 2009 Amnesty Report on Cameroon, Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa said:

Cameroon has a horrendous record of gross human rights violations, including torture and killings, against dissidents and members of opposition. Political opposition is not tolerated in Cameroon. Any dissent is suppressed through either violence or abuse of the legal system to silence critics.

A UK Border Agency spokesperson says:

Our rules are very clear, when someone has no right to be in the UK we expect them to leave voluntarily. If they fail to do so, we will seek to remove them.

Cllr Mohammed says that whilst in Sheffield, Bernard was making a great contribution to the city.

He volunteered with the Royal Society for the Blind and another charity called Aspire. Two years ago, when the devastating floods hit Pakistan, one of the first people outside the Town Hall was Bernard. He helped to highlight the plight and to raise thousands of pounds.

Sharon says:

He’s my husband, he’s a step-dad, he’s a granddad and it’s so wrong that they’re quite happy to take him away from us and not allow him to have a family life.

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