A desperate British government is spending a fortune on the planned deportation of Isa Muazu but the chartered plane was denied landing on Nigerian soil
A British government attempt to deport a ‘near death’ Nigerian asylum seeker, Isa Muazu, was thwarted on Friday after the Nigerian government denied the chartered private jet rights to land.
The private jet, hired at huge cost to the British government, returned to the UK, from Malta, with Mr. Muazu after hours in the air, sparking backlash against the UK government.
Mr. Muazu was bundled out of the medical wing of Harmondsworth detention centre, amidst protests calling for his release, on Friday for the flight to Nigeria.
Protesters from the Stop Deportations Network closed Harmondsworth detention centre, earlier on Friday, in an attempt to stop Mr. Muazu’s deportation, with one man supergluing himself to the gates of the detention centre. The man was eventually arrested at 7a.m. by a specialist police team who took several hours to remove him.
Mr. Muazu, said to be only skin and bones fat, has been on hunger strike for 100 days, to protest UK’s refusal to grant him asylum. His medical team declared him unfit to fly or be kept in detention, while rights groups condemned the British government’s desperation to remove him from UK.
Mr. Muazu entered the UK on a valid visa in 2007, but decided to remain in the UK for fears he will be killed by Boko Haram, whom he claimed had killed several of his relatives. After seeking asylum he was put in fast track detention, and his claims expressly rejected.
Mr. Muazu’s lawyers told the BBC he had been returned to the medical wing at Harmondsworth detention centre since returning from the failed deportation.
‘End of life plan’
Before arriving the Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow airport, Mr. Muazu had health conditions including Hepatitis B, kidney problems and stomach ulcers. He complained that the highly processed food served to detainees was worsening his medical conditions but UK detention officials dismissed him as “behaving like a child”.
In October, his physical and mental health deteriorated. His medical team declared he was unfit for detention and edging towards death, but rather than release him, UK immigration officials drew up an ‘end of life plan,’ an alternative to deporting him.
A British High Court and the Court of Appeal also declared Muazu’s detention lawful, ruling that the UK Home Office had the right to remove a man who its staff accepted was close to death and for whom an ‘end of life plan’ had been drawn up.
But Mr. Muazu would not take a deportation. “I feel devastated. I’d rather die than go back. If they can take my body and bury it, that would be the only thing. I’m not going back, I’m telling you. There’s nothing there for me,” he told Vice Magazine’s Simon Childs and Lord Roberts of Llandudno who later started an e-petition calling for his release.
The ‘end of life’ plan included allowing him die on his mattress in his detention room.
Apparently, the UK government would not have an asylum seeker on hunger strike die in its detention centre. An expensive deportation plan, which included hiring a private jet, was drawn up.
The UK Home office hired a private jet, with flight number EDC684, registered with Air Charter Scotland Ltd, the aviation firm that flew Mary J Blige to Lagos, in September. The firm also manages the private jet of British business mogul, Lord Sugar.
The UK Home Office had planned to deport Mr. Muazu on a Virgin Atlantic flight but the plan was called off a night before. Rights campaigners said their pressure forced Virgin Atlantic to back down.
Campaigners also attempted to pressure the private jet company to decline the offer to fly Mr. Muazu to Nigeria. Protesters from Unity Centre Glasgow and Student Action for Refugees gathered outside the company’s East Kilbride offices Thursday afternoon, but the firm went ahead to execute the deportation.
Campaigners said it must have cost the British government between 100 to 188 thousand Great British Pounds to execute the failed deportation.
“How can you spend that much deporting only one person when he is not even a criminal?” Jasmine Sallis, a volunteer caseworker at the Unity Centre in Glasgow said. The Unity Centre have been at the forefront of campaigns to free Mr. Muazu.
The aircraft model used in executing the failed deportation, rights campaigners suspect, is a Legacy 600, the same model of aircraft used in deporting radical preacher, Abu Qatada, to Jordan. Mr. Qatada’s deportation was estimated to have cost the UK Home Office over 50 thousand Great British Pounds.
The UK home office is closed till Monday, while the Nigerian aviation authorities could not explains reasons for the plane’s inability to land in Nigeria.
Yakubu Datti, the spokesperson of the Nigerian aviation industry, told PREMIUM TIMES he would make enquiry and revert. He is yet to do so as at the time of publishing this.
UK’s desperation to deport Mr. Muazu cost it both public funds and social capital. Human rights campaigners condemned UK government’s hardline stance to deport the asylum seeker, saying he might die in the process.
Late November, over a hundred NGOs, actors and lawyers wrote to The Guardian to demand Mr. Muazu’s release.
“Like Isa, many feel that their asylum claims have not been fairly heard and that they are losing their freedom only for the “crime” of seeking safety in the UK,” the signatories said. “We are extremely concerned that Isa may die as a result of a hardened stance being taken towards migrants in the UK. We urgently call for clemency in this case. We ask that the home secretary reconsider Isa’s case and act quickly to release him in the UK, so that another death in immigration detention can be avoided.”
Mr. Muazu is not the only person on hunger strike in the asylum detention centre. Unity Centre claim there are at least three other men in the Medical Centre at Harmondsworth detention centre on hunger strike in the same ward as Mr. Muazu with possibly more hunger strikers in other wards at the detention centre.
“One of the men started his hunger strike on 5 November,” the Unity Centre said.