Hidden stories of failed asylum seekers

The hidden stories of the people Britain will deport tonight

The hidden stories of the people Britain will deport tonight

Tonight, Isa Muazu is being forcibly deported on a charter flight back to Nigeria.

On that flight are several other Nigerians, most of them failed asylum seekers.

The phrase 'failed asylum seeker' tends to close people's mind. The stamp of official disapproval is enough to prevent people thinking any further about the claims people make, or the horrors they may face when they get home.

Sometimes that's right. Some people come here and make a story up in a bid to escape the poverty or drudgery in their country of origin.

Sometimes it isn't. The asylum system is often a harsh, illogical nightmare of humiliation and disbelief. UKBA officers are intent on rejecting applications. People who have gone through traumatic events – such as rape, torture, or the death of family members – are subject to a forensic analysis which many of us would be unable to satisfy even if it centred on what we did last Wednesday.

Here are the stories of the people who will be on that flight with Isa Muazu.

I have not independently verified them. I have not looked into the evidence or made any phone calls except to get their side of the story. I do not say if they are true or false.

Perhaps you believe them. Perhaps you don't. Either way, this is the story of the people we will tonight deport from Britain.

They are not numbers.


Simon (not his real name) is gay. When he arrives back in Nigeria tomorrow morning, he expects to be arrested right off the plane. In Nigeria, sex with someone of the same gender is illegal.

In certain northern states, it is punishable by death by stoning. In the more liberal, secular courts of the predominantly Christian south, it is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

Not long after he arrived in the UK Simon met another Nigerian man and started a relationship. They've been together for over a year.

He made an asylum claim in June last year on the basis of his sexuality. He says it was only after the interview that he was told how much evidence he should provide to show their relationship was genuine. He claims to have plenty – statements from family and friends, photographs of them together, statements from the Unity LGBT team saying Simon was an active member. He just wasn't told he had to provide them.

That's often the way with asylum cases. Gay refugees often have to go to extraordinary lengths – including showing UKBA case workers pictures of themselves engaged in gay sex acts – to convince them of their sexuality.

The Home Office appeared more convinced on the basis of his second claim, but rejected him because this time they refused to believe his partner was gay.

He flies back to Nigeria tonight.


Josephine Atiri met and married her partner, a British citizen, in July 2011.

It was a far cry from the trauma of her childhood, when she says she was raped and sexually assaulted by members of her adopted family.

She asked to stay on the basis of her Article 8 right to a family life. It was rejected. She applied for a spousal visa. That didn't work either. The Home Office accepts the relationship is genuine, it just thinks it can be a genuine relationship elsewhere.

The week before last, UKBA arrived at her house. They took her away from her husband, to a detention centre, and put her in a cell.

"I'm pleading with them to let me stay with my husband and have a good life," she told her caseworker. "I've never had a good life.  I'm begging them."

She flies back to Nigeria tonight.


Gabriel (not his real name) met his British fiancé three years ago when he was still a student.

He was refused further leave to remain after his course finished. By the time they were due to have a marriage interview last October, he was already in detention. He asked for permission to go but it was declined.

They gave evidence about their relationship, including statements, letters and photos, but the test only gave them 13 points out of 30. Their names were not on the lease, as they share the house with others, and the bills are in the landlord's name.

As I wrote about Gabriel, his fiancé was travelling to meet him in the detention centre.

He flies back to Nigeria tonight.


Joshua (not his real name) had gone to register a fresh submission for an asylum claim when he was suddenly detained.

Without warning, he was put in Harmondsworth detention centre. As a sufferer from end-stage kidney disease, anaemia and hypertension, he desperately needed his medication, but staff said they did not stock it. For six days he went without.

Supporters say they have seen the doctor's letter warning that he needs the medication to keep his condition under control. Regardless of the medication, he requires dialysis, which would increase his life expectancy by 30 years. Without it, he will die.

Once detained, the Kafkaesque games began. He was informed there was no record of a fresh submission, despite proof from his lawyer. With all the delays, lawyers were given just a day to make the legal case before the flight.

Joshua says he came to the UK because he was kidnapped in Nigeria, an episode which involved torture. The rest of his family have already fled the country.

"I'm scared of being removed," he says. "I don't know what's going to happen if I get home."

He flies back to Nigeria tonight.


Isa Muazu had been in detention for a long time before he started his hunger strike.

At first it was a protest over food. He needs specific foods because of his stomach ulcers and haemorrhoids, but when he informed staff he was told they "do not have children in here".

So he went on hunger strike, first as a protest against the food he was offered and then against a system which imprisons a man without charge.

He had been on hunger strike for 90 days by the time he was deported. He could not see or stand. A doctor's report said he was not fit to fly. Theresa May deported him anyway.

When the plane reached Nigeria it became clear the Home Office had failed to secure landing authorisation. It was turned back and returned to the UK.

Now, weeks later, his remaining legal avenues dwindling, he will be forced onto a chartered plane with several other Nigerians and be returned to his home country.

There, he expects to be targeted by Boko Harem, the extremist Islamist group which he says has already killed several members of his family.

He flies back to Nigeria tonight.