The Trinidad High Court has blocked the deportation of five Cameroonians seeking asylum, pending the outcome of their lawsuit against the Chief Immigration Officer and the Office of the Attorney General.
The interim injunction was granted by High Court Judge Carol Gobin just before midnight on Tuesday, less than four hours before Bertha Takem Oben Etchi, Achatie Magrate Affuelasong, Venessa Njeck Enjek, Humphrey Nche Ngangfor, and Bringsluck Fru Nchewere were scheduled to depart Piarco International Airport.
The group arrived in the twin-island republic on a flight from Suriname in November last year, saying they feared they would have been killed by military forces in their homeland.
Attorneys-at-law Om Lalla, Ilisha Manerikar and Aaron Mahabir filed the court action late Tuesday evening.
They said Etchi, Affuelasong and Enjeck, the three females in the group, were recently interviewed by officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and were deemed eligible last week to receive refugee status.
The men, Ngangfor and his son, Nchewere, are to face a final interview by UNHCR officials to determine if they are eligible for refugee status.
The attorneys stated in their application that the Immigration Department was aware of this but was ignoring the UNHCR process and decided to send the group back to Cameroon.
Immigration officials detained the Cameroonians when they arrived in the island last November pending deportation.
In correspondence sent subsequently to Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, Lalla sought entry for the five as asylum seekers due to fears of persecution and prosecution in their country. He referred to direct attacks they faced before recently fleeing Cameroon.
A special immigration tribunal heard the appeal against the deportation order but dismissed it. However, the Cameroonians were allowed to pursue their application to be deemed asylum seekers with the UNHCR.