Protesters gather outside Home Office demanding mercy for Isa Muazu

Protesters congregate at the Home Office this evening. Photo credit: Guy Taylor, JCWI
Protesters congregate at the Home Office this evening. Photo credit: Guy Taylor, JCWI
Ian Dunt By

Protesters gathered outside the Home Office tonight to hold a vigil for Nigerian asylum seeker Isa Muazu, amid fears Theresa May is about to restart efforts to have him deported.

The demonstration was designed to increase the pressure on the home secretary, after Nigeria confirmed it would now accept a deportation flight carrying the hunger striker.

"Despite botching the deportation of a man on the verge of death, and squandering up to £180,000 of public money, Theresa May is determined to try to deport Isa again," vigil organiser Nancy Maller said.

"This shows that political point scoring really is at the heart of Theresa May’s decision making, and respect for human life and dignity have been left by the wayside."


The crowd was read a the names of the 19 people who have died while under custody in British immigration detention centres in the last 25 years.

Protesters also met in Glasgow to demonstrate against plans for deportation.

Meanwhile, lawyers are launching a last-minute judicial review calling for Muazu's asylum case to be heard again.

The Nigerian's asylum case was fast-tracked and rejected, despite claims that he will be targeted by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram upon return to his home country.

There was an outcry from human rights groups last week when the Home Office proceeded with the deportation despite signs he was experiencing organ failure following a 90-day hunger strike.

Muazu can no longer see or stand and weighs just 50 kilograms.

Meanwhile, the political pressure on May ramped up after the TaxPayers' Alliance joined the chorus of criticism over the botched effort to deport the asylum seeker last week.

"It’s absolutely right that the Home Office deport a failed asylum seeker but the cost must be kept under control," Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, told Politics.co.uk.

"The government has to explain why a private jet was used in this case and why it so spectacular failed to file the right paperwork beforehand, further adding to the cost.

"Given that Nigeria will now accept the flight a bit of forethought could easily have avoided a significant waste of taxpayers’ money."

It is the first intervention by a centre-right group into the ongoing row, which had until now been dominated by religious figures, human rights campaigners and centre-left MPs and peers.

Muazu was deported on a specially chartered flight on Friday only to be returned 20 hours later after Nigerian authorities said the plane had no landing authorisation.

He had originally been due to be deported on a scheduled Virgin Atlantic flight, but the removal was mysteriously transferred to the chartered flight without explanation.

Some figures believe it was result of a pressure campaign against the company by supporters of Muazu, but that has not been confirmed.

The botched deportation will be the subject of a question in the Lords this Wednesday, when Lord Roberts of Llandudno will highlight "a complete lack of competency at the very top levels of government".

Speaking ahead of the Lords session, the peer said: "It was seriously incompetent and inhumane for the home secretary and the immigration minister to put Isa on a plane considering his life-threatening state.

"It would be an unforgivable, ruthless act to force Isa to repeat such an agonising ordeal. His place is not on a chartered jet to Nigeria - it is in a reputable hospital where he may be cared for by medical professionals.

"The government must immediately clarify its policy position in relation to the detention of immigration detainees who are seriously ill and refuse food and fluids."

Repeated efforts to secure an urgent question in the Commons have not been selected by authorities.

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