The Republic of Equatorial Guinea, a small country that is located on the west coast of Central Africa that also includes nearby islands, has a population of approximately 1.4 million people. As of 9 March 2021, it had recorded 6,371 cases and 96 COVID-19 deaths. On 22 March 2020, a week after the first case […]
Last updated: September 2023
The Republic of Equatorial Guinea, a small country that is located on the west coast of Central Africa that also includes nearby islands, has a population of approximately 1.4 million people. In recent years, the country has launched anti-migrant campaigns that have resuted in the detention of hundreds of people from countries across Africa, including Senegal, Cameroon, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Without proper facilities, migrants are detained in police stations, and in some instances have been confined in sports stadiums.
In April 2022, Amnesty International (AI) called on the country to release a group of West African men had been "illegally detained ... for more than five months" as part of an anti-migrant crack down that had resulted in a "sudden influx" of detainees in police stations, which quickly became overcrowded. "As a consequence, some people were instead detained in sport facilities, such as the Malabo Sports Complex and the Nkoantoma Sports Stadium in Bata. ... The vast majority of detained individuals did not receive any legal assistance, nor had access to appropriate legal procedures and due process relating to their detention. Some were deported to their home countries without due process and without access to a lawyer prior to deportation orders being carried out. Others were released weeks after their arrest but did not receive any explanation for their detention and were never charged."
Equatorial Guinea does not host many refugees. The UN refugee agency reports that as of 2019, there were 156 mandate refugees and 167 asylum seekers from Equatorial Guinea around the world. On the other hand, according to UNHCR, many citizens have fled Equatorial Guinea in recent years and are recognised as requiring international protection. Observers have long condemned the authoritarian government of committing widespread human rights abuses.
While the country is not a party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, in 2002 it ratified both the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In 2019 UNHCR welcomed Equatorial Guinea’s accession to the Kampala Convention on internally displaced persons, becoming the 29th African Union member state to do so.
According to the U.S. State Department, during 2019 both legal and irregular immigrants were arbitrarily arrested, physically abused, detained, and extorted in some cases. It reported that the government was uncooperative in granting protection to forcibly displaced populations registered with the UNHCR. “Diplomatic representatives in the country criticized the government for the harassment, abuse, extortion, and detention of foreign nationals and for not renewing residence and work permits in a timely manner, making foreign nationals vulnerable to abuse.”
The country’s laws provide enforcement measures and criminal penalties for immigration violations. According to Article 46(a) of Organic Law Number 3/2010 of 30 May, Regulating the Rights of Foreigners in Equatorial Guinea (Ley Orgánica Número 3/2010, de fecha 30 de mayo, Reguladora del Derecho de Extranjería en Guinea Ecuatorial), it is a “serious offence” to be in an irregular situation in Equatorial Guinea. Article 48 provides fines for serious offences from “500.001 F.cfas to 3.000.000 of F.cfas.” In addition, under Article 50(1), non-citizens can be expelled from the country for committing “serious offences,” including for being in the country without authorisation. Moreover, according to Article 51(1), people who are expelled from the country under this law are prohibited from re-entering for a period of 10 to 15 years.
According to Amnesty International, although the Organic Law provides a limit of 60 days for administrative detention, during anti-migrant crackdowns people have been detained for periods that exceed this limit without "access to administrative or legal procedures to challenge the reasons for their detention, a legal guarantee under Equatorial Guinean law."
Observers have reported a grim picture of Equatorial Guinea’s prisons and detention centres. The UN Human Rights Committee noted in 2019 concern about overcrowding in prisons with no separation of men, women and minors, no food provision, poor sanitary and healthcare conditions, arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, and incommunicado detention. Amnesty International documented extensive torture of prisoners between the years 1988 and 2009, and the U.S. State Department reported in 2019 “harsh and life threatening” conditions “due to abuse, overcrowding, disease, inadequate food, poorly trained staff, and lack of medical care.” There have also been numerous reports about the spread of diseases–including malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS–posing a serious problem in prisons, suggesting vulnerability to COVID-19 outbreaks.
On 24 April 2020, the political party, “Convergencia Para la Democracia Social” called on the government to decongest police stations and penitentiaries. It also called for the release of those detained for non-violent offences and political prisoners. A day earlier, a nurse was released from the Black Beach prison after having been imprisoned for telling a friend via Whatsapp that the hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated had no oxygen.
- Amnesty International, "Equatorial Guinea. Illegally detained irregular migrants must be released," 29 April 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/04/equatorial-guinea-illegally-detained-irregular-migrants-must-be-released/
- Human Rights Watch, “Equatorial Guinea,” https://www.hrw.org/africa/equatorial-guinea
- France 24, “China Donates 100,000 Covid Vaccines to Equatorial Guinea,” 11 February 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210211-china-donates-100-000-covid-vaccines-to-equatorial-guinea
- UNHCR, “UNHCR Welcomes Equatorial Guinea’s Accession to Kampala Convention on IDP’s,” 30 October 2019, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/10/5db9c50d4/unhcr-welcomes-equatorial-guineas-accession-kampala-convention-idps.html
- UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder,” accessed on 9 March 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=9uYIaR
- J. Tasamba, “Equatorial Guinea Declares State of Alarm over COVID-19,” Agencia Andalou, 22 March 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/equatorial-guinea-declares-state-of-alarm-over-covid-19/1774801
- Garda, “Equatorial Guinea: Authorities Amend COVID-19 Restrictions Nationwide from Feb. 9; 1900-0600 curfew introduced /update 14,” 10 February 2021, https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/441046/equatorial-guinea-authorities-amend-covid-19-restrictions-nationwide-from-feb-9-1900-0600-curfew-introduced-update-14
- CPDS, “COMUNICADO MUY URGENTE: CPDS Pide la Liberación de Presos Debido al Brusco Aumento del Número de Infectados en Guinea Ecuatorial,” 24 April 2020, http://www.cpdsge.org/2020/04/24/comunicado-muy-urgente-cpds-pide-la-liberacion-de-presos-debido-al-brusco-aumento-del-numero-de-infectados-en-guinea-ecuatorial/
- Le Figaro, “Guinée Equatoriale: Liberté Provisoire Pour une Infirmière Qui Avait Critiqué l’Hôpital,” 23 April 2020, https://www.lefigaro.fr/international/guinee-equatoriale-liberte-provisoire-pour-une-infirmiere-qui-avait-critique-l-hopital-20200423
- Daily News Egypt, “Equatorial Guinea President Receives 1st Dose of Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine,” 17 February 2021, https://dailynewsegypt.com/2021/02/17/equatorial-guinea-president-receives-1st-dose-of-chinese-covid-19-vaccine/
- Government of Equatorial Guinea, “Ley Orgánica 3/2010 Reguladora del Derecho de Extranjería en Guinea Ecuatorial,” accessed on 9 March 2021, http://cesge.org/index.php/leyes/category/4-civil
- United States Department of State, “2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Equatorial Guinea,” https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/equatorial-guinea/
- P. Nguyen, “Vietnam Brings 140 Virus-hit Workers Home on Rare Rescue Flight from Africa,” Reuters, 29 July 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vietnam-equatorial-idUSKCN24U21G
- UN Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on Equatorial Guinea in the Absence of its Initial Report,” 22 August 2019, https://bit.ly/3clPi27