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Refugees Are Deported to Sudan by Jordan

Publisher: The New York Times
Author: By RANA F. SWEIS; Nick Cumming-Bruce contributed reporting from Geneva.
Story date: 20/12/2015
Language: English

AMMAN, Jordan – The Jordanian authorities on Friday deported hundreds of Sudanese asylum seekers, most of them from the war-afflicted Darfur region, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

The decision comes one month after the Sudanese began camping in front of the United Nations refugee agency building in Amman, demanding more aid from the United Nations and an acceleration of the process to resettle them in other countries.

''We have appealed and we continue to appeal to the government to stop the deportations from Jordan of Sudanese nationals who are registered with U.N.H.C.R. as refugees and asylum seekers,'' Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, said by telephone on Friday.

According to the United Nations, more than 3,500 Sudanese had registered with the agency and as such had international protection. Ms. Rummery said 70 percent of those registered were from the Darfur region of Sudan, and their return there might put them at risk.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said, ''Jordan should not punish these Sudanese merely because they protested for better conditions and for resettlement considerations.''

A government spokesman, Mohammad Momani, confirmed on Friday that deportations were underway, saying that ''430 of them have traveled to Sudan and the rest will follow.'' He added that the asylum seekers initially entered the country for medical treatment, ''but then asked for refugee status.''

At 4 a.m. on Wednesday, the police rounded up about 800 Sudanese from the encampment they had set up in front of the refugee agency and told them to board 14 buses to Queen Alia International Airport, according to Human Rights Watch.

Jordan hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees. More than 750,000 are registered with the United Nations refugee agency, and the vast majority are Syrians. Although Jordan has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, it is bound by the international principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits governments from returning people to places where they risk persecution, torture or exposure to inhumane treatment or punishment.

''The majority of these Sudanese have protection needs,'' Ms. Rummery said. ''They could possibly be sent back where they could face danger or persecution.'' Around the world, the United Nations refugee agency has registered about 700,000 Sudanese; more than half of those are in the Middle East.

In a statement issued Friday, Amnesty International appealed to the Jordanian government to halt the forcible return of the Sudanese and said the deportation of the ''Darfuris to Sudan is an absolute disgrace.''

The Sudanese are part of a global flow of people seeking a haven from violence. The number of people forced to flee war is expected to far surpass 60 million in 2015, the United Nations said on Friday, warning that violence is likely to push a record number of asylum seekers even higher in the coming year.

At least five million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in the first half of the year, adding to the 59.5 million displaced people the United Nations refugee agency had recorded by the end of 2014.

Most of the people on the move in 2015 were displaced within their own country, but as many as 839,000 fled across international borders in the first half of the year, more than a third of them trying to escape the war in Syria.

To make matters worse, the money available to help the increasing number of people fleeing conflict has fallen far below the level of need, António Guterres, the departing United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said in Geneva. ''It's clear humanitarian actors are no longer able to provide the minimum support both in relation to core protection and lifesaving activities,'' he said.

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