African asylum seekers jailed in Louisiana stop eating in protest

Published

In the Mankon language, spoken in northwest Cameroon, “mughu” is a word for hell. Northwest Cameroon was home to about a dozen of the 48 African asylum seekers now confined in Louisiana at Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, where COVID has taken a firm grip. Along with men from Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and Burkino Faso, the Cameroonians find themselves in a mughu of indefinite detention where their applications for parole are denied — unreasonably, their advocates say — or simply go unanswered.

Sylvie Bello, founder of the Cameroon American Council in Washington, D.C., says over 30 Africans at the Pine Prairie facility are participating in a hunger strike to get everybody out safely, especially two who are especially sick.

Leonard Ataubo is a 23-year-old man recovering from hemorrhoid surgery, whose profuse vomiting and bleeding have left him in a severely weakened condition. Nathania Funa suffers from asthma, and has back pain so severe he can’t sleep through the night, has lost his appetite, and must wear a back brace to stay mobile.

Bryan D. Cox, public affairs director of ICE’s Southeastern Region said in an August 17 email that only one person in the Pine Prairie facility is in “hunger strike status” and that that inmate isn’t from Africa. “Claims regarding an extended hunger strike by a group of detainees at the facility are not accurate.”

But advocates say Cox is using a technicality to side step questions. They say the hunger strikers started August 10 but paused their protest as a show of good faith to ICE officials who expressed a willingness to negotiate. That negotiation failed, they say, and the hunger strike is expected to resume Friday, according to Rose Murray, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Louisiana who is representing some of the hunger strikers. The strikers are resuming their hunger strike on August 21. Murray says the strikers never considered themselves as having abandoned the strike, but were in “hold off” mode in order to advance the negotiation.

Read the article at Louisiana Illuminator