Jordan has deported hundreds of Sudanese nationals, despite warnings from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) that they face persecution in Sudan.

Security forces took about 800 Sudanese to Queen Alia International Airport on Wednesday but held deportations until Friday, citing “logistical reasons”.

The Sudanese had been demonstrating for refugee status outside Amman’s UNHCR offices for a month.

UNHCR said it was “gravely concerned” for their safety.

Three planes carrying 430 of the asylum seekers took off for Khartoum airport early on Friday, the refugee agency’s Jordan spokeswoman, Aoife McDonnell, told AP.

“Some, if not many” are registered as refugees and asylum seekers with UNHCR, she said.

Local media reports that three who refused to board a plane died when police used tear gas against them. Jordanian authorities have not commented.

Elena Habersky, who taught some of the asylum seekers English while they were in Jordan, told the BBC that many of them had fled the genocide in Darfur.

“They’re terrified. They told me if they go back to Sudan they will either be put in prison or be killed,” she said.

Jordan’s Information Minister, Mohammed Momani, said the Sudanese were in the country to seek medical treatment but then began “demanding to be recognised as refugees”.