A Humanitarian Tragedy, One Year Later

Deported Darfurian Refugees' Struggle for Survival

A Sudanese refugee from Darfur carries her child during an open-ended sit-in outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman, Jordan, December 2015. Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS

This time last year, more than 900 Darfuri men, women, and children staged a sit-in in a makeshift tent camp outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency) in Amman, Jordan. The refugees claimed the organization was not meeting their needs and that it was becoming impossible to live as refugees in a country that provided no camp for them and would not allow them to work. Jordan and the UN, moreover, gave them limited to no protection from the racial discrimination and abuse they experienced from locals. Many at the protest said they were in the process of being evicted from their apartments, since they had no money to pay rent.

After about a month, the protest had grown to around 950 people. Jordanian authorities then shocked the international aid community and human rights advocates worldwide by deporting almost 600 men, women, and children at the protest back to Khartoum, where the government is accused of war crimes, illegal land grabbing, rape, and genocide. One year later, I spoke with members of the deported now dispersed throughout Sudan, Egypt, Libya, and even Europe, as well as those who were left behind in Jordan, to find out what happened to them and the lessons it should teach the international humanitarian community.


Jordanian police arrived in the refugee encampment early in the morning of December 16 to tell the demonstrators that their protest had worked—they were being resettled to Australia, Canada, and even the United States. According to the refugees I interviewed, they were told that all they had to do was board the buses the police had brought to the UNHCR building. The demonstrators did so, only to be handcuffed once onboard.

One refugee, Abu Zaid, said that he received a phone call from others at the protest. “Our friends said: ‘Come quick, the police have told us our protest worked and that they will take us to the airport to fly us to Canada and the United States.’

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.