Jordan begins deporting Sudanese asylum seekers

AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan on Friday began deporting hundreds of Sudanese, despite warnings by the UN refugee agency that they could face danger and persecution in their troubled homeland.

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Jordanian security forces rounded up about 800 Sudanese earlier this week, with the intention of deporting them. Troops tore down their makeshift tent camp in the capital Amman, and detained them at a holding bay near the country's international airport.

The deportations began early Friday and the majority of those slated for deportation were to be flown out of the country throughout the day, government spokesman Mohammed Momani said.

By noon Friday, three planes with 430 Sudanese on board had left, said Aoife McDonnell, a refugee agency spokeswoman in Jordan. She said the agency is "extremely concerned" about others held at the loading bay.

A Sudanese activist in Jordan who was in touch with some of his countrymen in detention said that at one point they staged a protest and that Jordanian forces responded with tear gas and beatings. The activist only gave a partial name, Abu Ehab.

His claim could not immediately be confirmed.

The UN agency has tried to halt the deportations to Sudan, saying the asylum seekers risk possible persecution there and that deportations violate international law.

McDonnell said the refugee agency has registered more than 3,500 Sudanese in Jordan, including 58 per cent that were recognized as refugees and the rest as asylum seekers. She noted that all those registered with the agency in the two categories enjoy international protection, adding that 70 per cent are from Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

"We believe many, if not most" of those being deported were registered with the agency, she said.

Darfur has been in turmoil since 2003, when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination. The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

Momani has said those slated for deportation had come to Jordan under the pretext of seeking medical treatment and that asylum protection did not apply to them.

Around the world, the UN refugee agency has registered about 700,000 Sudanese, McDonnell said.

The deportations come as UNHCR on Friday presented its twice-annual "trends" report, saying that forced displacement is set to hit a new record this year. It said the global refugee total surpassed 20 million in mid-2015. Overall forced displacement, including asylum-seekers and internally displaced people, was on track top 60 million for the first time this year.

The report also said voluntary return rates, a figure showing how many people returned of their own desire and indicative of the safety of returning home, had fallen to the lowest level in more than three decades: an estimated 84,000 people, compared to 107,000 last year.



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