Jordan deporting Sudanese asylum seekers

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

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 epitomised dilemmas faced by many European, Mideast and African countries that have faced a refugee influx in recent years. Jordan has otherwise drawn plaudits from UN officials for being more welcoming that most by taking in many Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians.

In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the world community had a “huge debt” to Jordan, but also noted the incident over the Sudanese.

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“We have been in close contact with the Jordanian government on the Sudanese question,” said Guterres, said UNHCR’s position was that the Sudanese in need of protection should not be deported.

The deportations began early on Friday and most of those slated for deportation were to be flown out of Jordan throughout the day, said government spokesperson Mohammed Momani. By noon, three planes with 430 Sudanese on board had left, said Aoife McDonnell, a refugee agency spokesperson 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 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.

McDonnell said UNHCR has registered more than 3 500 Sudanese in Jordan. Of those, 58% were recognised 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% are from Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.

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

Also Friday, the UNHCR in Geneva 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 to top 60 million for the first time this year.

The report also said that 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.