Youth Against Racism in Europe

PO Box 858, 
Enfield EN1 9GT

020 8988 8762

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Charles Pouaha must stay!

"I escaped and came to England on the 26th of November 2002, but instead of finding refuge here I have been drowning in problems; since I came to this country and presented myself to immigration as an asylum-seeker, I have suffered the evils that I was trying to forget yet again. I have been held in detention since the 29th August 2003. Because I know my situation is very dangerous in Cameroon, and I know how failed asylum seekers who are deported to Cameroon are treated, I resisted deportation."

"I'm very disappointed about the way I have been treated by the immigration service. The injuries and the pain that I now have in my wrists, my thighs and my ribs, remind me of the difficult times I had to suffer in my country. I'm very troubled and I find my reason for living is diminishing under all the pressure and the violence used by the immigration services in Britain, which is supposed to be one of the best countries in the world when it comes to human rights. I regret the day of my birth with the treatment I have suffered here."

Please support Charles' campaign for refuge in the UK. You can write:

c/o P.O. Box 858, Enfield EN1 9GT

or email the campaign at:

Leaflet: Charles Pouaha must stay!

Petition: Charles Pouaha must stay!

Background information

Charles fled to England from Cameroon in November 2002. He had been imprisoned and tortured by the Cameroonian authorities for his political activities as part of the Committee pour le Soutien de la Liberte, which is affiliated to the Social-Democratic Front (SDF, the main opposition group in Cameroon).

"I never even thought about leaving my country or coming to England before I began to suffer persecution from the authorities. I had a normal life with my little family but around me many other people were suffering the lack of basic necessities for example: sending their children to school or medical care. I felt obliged to make my voice heard: after multi-party democracy was begun in Cameroon I became a member of the SDF (Social Democratic Front) in 1995 and afterwards a very active member of the CSPL (Comité de soutien pour la liberté - which is affiliated to the SDF). These two organisations had the same ideology: equality of opportunity and giving power back to the people."

Persecution of opposition activists in Cameroon, as well as others who criticise the regime like journalists and trade unionists, is well-documented. For example:

  • Amnesty International's annual report 2004 on Cameroon says that the authorities ‘used malicious prosecution, arbitrary arrest and excessive force against demonstrators as tools of political repression', including the use of lethal force against demonstrators, killing several, with no action taken against the police responsible.
  • In November 2003 the UN Committee against Torture expressed grave concern about 'systematic torture'of people arrested by the police and gendarmes in Cameroon, and reported that conditions in many prisons amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Charles was arrested for the first time in March 2002, after he had allowed opposition leaflets to be given out in his workshop. Fortunately the news was spread quickly and after a campaign began to pressurise the authorities, Charles was released the next day.

Charles was arrested for the second time on the 23rd of June 2002, during demonstrations against the postponement of parliamentary and council elections meant to take place that day (the postponement was only announced on the morning of the elections).

He says:

"I was arrested and beaten up severely. I found myself imprisoned with two broken teeth. I was beaten on the soles of my feet [with the flats of machete blades]; I had to sleep on the floor; these conditions made me want to die."

Charles managed to escape from detention after 16 weeks of this treatment and went into hiding. Knowing that the authorities were still searching for him and that his freedom, health and even life were at risk if he stayed in Cameroon, Charles took the difficult decision to leave in search of refuge abroad.

Asylum case turned down

Charles has had three separate asylum applications refused. Campaigners and lawyers agree that Charles has a good case, but that this was badly dealt with by his first solicitor. Because his first application was turned down, with adverse credibility findings made against Charles by the adjudicator, the Home Office and courts have used this to turn down everything else since, no matter what evidence has been provided to support Charles' case. This has included:

  • a report by Maitre Momo Jean de Dieu, a leading human rights barrister and lawyer in Cameroon, on the situation of Cameroonians who are returned to Cameroon from Europe, which states that many of these are automatically jailed, and describes the horrific conditions in New Bell prison in Douala.
  • new evidence from Cameroon which supported his description of what he had suffered including letters from Charles' wife, a friend and legal documents.
  • evidence from Cameroonians removed from Britain about the situation they faced on return.

Indefinite detention?

Charles has been detained in the UK since 29 August 2003; much longer than immigration detention powers are supposed to be used for. This detention has had a big psychological impact on Charles and makes him relive the detention and torture he suffered in Cameroon.

Intervention from Cameroonian human rights barrister

Maitre Momo, who researched and wrote the report mentioned above, visited the UK recently. Arriving at the end of October, less than a week before Charles was due to be deported (on 4 November) Maitre Momo was so worried about the danger Charles faced that he intervened in the case, making a direct appeal to Home Secretary David Blunkett to halt the deportation and review Charles' asylum case. Brice Nitcheu, the president of the SDF (UK) and Coordinator of the CDC (Cameroon Diaspora Coalition) in the UK, also intervened, as did Charles' MP and many other people; all these appeals were rejected.

Link to letter from Maitre Momo

Link to letter from Brice Nitcheu

Brutalisation during removal attempt

On 4 November 2004 Charles was taken to the airport by four escorts. After he refused to board the plane, Charles was repeatedly punched and kicked; this treatment also continued after he had been carried on to the plane, when he refused to sit down. When Charles cried out for help to the passengers, one of the escorts put her hand several times over his mouth and nose which stopped him from breathing. Campaigners are convinced that the violence used against Charles goes beyond lawful force. It has left him with injuries including:

  • cuts on his hands and wrists which were still visible and painful to the touch several weeks later.
  • neurological damage, which has left him without feeling in his left thumb.
  • significant psychological damage including sleeping problems, flashbacks to the incident, depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder.

The authorities had tried to deport Charles four times before, but two of these attempts were stopped because Charles had a legal case ongoing; the other two attempts did not succeed because the pilot refused to take Charles, who was in a great deal of distress and explained to the pilot and escorts why he did not want to go.

In December 2004 Charles said:

"Since I received that mistreatment I had bruises and pain all over and could only walk with difficulty. I have pain in my abdomen, neck and back pain. I can't sleep and when I try to go to sleep, I see again all the violence done to me before and my body starts to hurt me. This reminds me of the worse conditions I suffered in my home country."