AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan plans to deport about 800 Sudanese asylum seekers to their country, a government spokesman said Wednesday, after troops tore down a makeshift tent camp for the displaced in a pre-dawn raid.
The U.N. refugee agency urged the government not go through with the deportations.
"We are in constant contact with the authorities and we have been advocating ... to halt any possible return to Sudan because these people may face persecution in their country," said agency spokeswoman Helene Daubelcour.
The international group Human Rights Watch said most of the about 4,000 Sudanese asylum seekers in Jordan come from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan.
The group said deporting them would violate customary international law which forbids governments from returning people to areas where they risk being persecuted or tortured.
The Sudanese had pitched the camp outside the refugee agency's headquarters a month ago, demanding resettlement to third countries. The camp housed men, women and children.
One of the camp residents, Ahmed Douri, said troops arrived at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, ordering people out of the tents and forcing them to board buses.
The Sudanese were driven to Jordan's international airport and were still there after nightfall Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said.
Douri said that at one point, Jordanian officials demanded that the Sudanese hand over their passports, but that many refused to do so.
Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said the Sudanese had entered Jordan under the pretext of seeking medical treatment and that "asylum conditions don't apply to them." He said about 800 would be deported to Sudan.
Douri said it is dangerous to return to Darfur region. He said the vast majority of them were registered as refugees by the U.N. agency and were entitled to international protection.
Daubelcour said she did not know the exact status of each Sudanese, but "we expect that many are registered with us."
Jordanian authorities informed the U.N. agency of the planned camp raid shortly before it happened, but did not say the refugees would be deported, Daubelcour said.
Officials only said they would evacuate the camp, which was set up on public land, she added.
The spokeswoman said the evacuation proceeded without violence. Douri said some of the Sudanese were later beaten by troops at the airport.