Family of Cameroonian immigrant who died in US detention facility denied visa to take body home

The lifeless body of a 37-year-old Cameroonian, Nebane Abienwi, an asylum-seeker who died in US immigration custody on October 1, is yet to return home despite numerous attempts by his family.

More than a month after he was pronounced dead, Abienwi’s lifeless body remains in the USA despite efforts by family members to take his body back to Cameroon.

His brother has twice been denied a visa to travel to the United States and identify his body.

Nebane Abienwi was detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement as he attempted to cross over into the United States via the southern border.

He later took ill and was put on life support. He was pulled off life support after suffering a “medical emergency” at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in San Diego.

His relatives said they requested that doctors continue the lifesaving measures but were taken aback when they didn’t.

According a report released by ICE, on Oct. 1, at 12:05 p.m., two doctors analyzed Abienwi’s examination results, concluding they “were consistent with brain death and pronounced him dead.”

Thirty minutes later, Abienwi’s family was notified, and two hours later, hospital staff “discontinued Mr. Abienwi’s ventilator support”.

The remains of the father of six who fled Cameroon due the simmering conflict have remained in California.

Abienwi’s youngest brother told USA Today that he has been scrambling between U.S. embassies in South Africa and Cameroon, pleading for a visa to travel to California to get some answers.

He said he wants to make sure it’s really his brother’s body and to perform cultural rites on the body before the casket is sealed.  He wants to know why doctors removed the ventilator that kept his brother breathing after he asked them to keep it in place until a relative could arrive.

“We did not approve that,” said Abienwi’s brother Akongnwi, who requested he be identified only by his last name out of fear that his family would face repercussions in Cameroon. “One hundred percent, we did not.”

Abienwi is the ninth migrant to die in ICE custody over the past year, according to ICE data. This continues to draw condemnation with pressure groups urging for better conditions in US immigration detention facilities.

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Amos Fofung
Amos Fofung
AMOS FOFUNG Nkunchoh is a multi-talented journalist with an intrinsic passion for investigative, politics and conflict reporting. He's based in the U. S.A.


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