Why Jordan Is Deporting Darfurian Refugees

Report from Amman

A Sudanese girl stands in front of a sit-in at the UNHCR office in Amman, Jordan. Isidro Serrano Selva

Early in the morning of December 16, Jordanian police rounded up around 950 Sudanese refugees living in Amman. Their hands were bound, and they were forced into buses, which shuttled them off to an empty military warehouse. For the past month, these Sudanese men, women, and children had been camping out in protest in front of the Jordan office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At issue was the fact that, a year ago, the UNHCR had deprioritized their resettlement cases (in favor of processing Iraqi and Syrian refugee cases), and many of them had been evicted from their homes and were broke and sick.

That night at the warehouse, the detainees began chanting for their human rights, and Jordanian authorities, in coordination with Sudanese embassy officials, responded with beatings, tear gas, and live bullets. Detainees were wounded and injured, mothers and children became severely sick from the tear gas, and families were forcibly separated.

Authorities eventually took the severely sick and wounded to a local hospital near the airport. Once there, some managed to escape and return to Amman. Others were treated and taken back to the warehouse.

Sudanese refugees from Darfur gather during an open-ended sit-in outside the UNHCR compound, demanding better treatment and acceleration of their relocation, in Amman, Jordan, December 6, 2015. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

The next morning, the authorities put the refugees and asylum seekers back on the buses and dropped them off at Queen Alia Airport. They were going back to Sudan—back to the country led by Omar al-Bashir, which has been waging a war against its people in Darfur for the past two decades. As a recent Human Rights Watch report noted, the levels of violence and bloodshed in Darfur have reached highs not seen since 2004, when hundreds of thousands died.

“We are concerned about the fate of the Sudanese who were deported,” Adam Coogle, from the Jordan office of Human Rights Watch, told me. “We are actively trying to understand where exactly those who

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