Home Office says man who hasn’t eaten for 90 days ‘is fit to fly’
An asylum seeker who has been on hunger strike for 90 days was today told he was 'fit to fly', suggesting plans are now under way to deport him.
Supporters say Isa Muazu is close to death death but the Home Office say their doctors found he could be safely removed from the country on a scheduled flight with medical escorts.
The news came during an interim relief hearing to consider release for Muazu pending an appeal hearing.
The Home Office argued that if the court granted release it would create a risk of further asylum seekers going on hunger strike to escape detention.
The legal developments came as protesters gathered outside Harmondsworth immigration detention centre to demand the release of the Nigerian asylum seeker.
The high court has ruled that Muazu is not being unlawfully held at the centre – a verdict greeted with dismay by migration and human rights groups and branded a "death sentence" by his lawyer.
"Isa has lost his vision, is suffering from severe chest pains and cannot breathe properly," Jasmine Sallis, a volunteer caseworker who works with Muazu, wrote for Politics.co.uk.
"[The Home Office] disregards his life in favour of their new even harder immigration stance.
"The UK condemns other countries for human rights abuses but what is worse than condemning someone to death?
"Isa has sent me what sounds like a final text – 'I am so grateful to have people who care for me and my well being, am so grateful…thank you'."
Comment: As I write this, Isa Muazu fades away
Immigrant rights groups are arriving at the centre to protest Muazu's detention this morning from various locations, including London and Glasgow.
"We will see how long we need to stay. No immediate plans to leave," protestors told Politics.co.uk.
Muaza said: "I am refusing to eat because my asylum claim was not treated fairly and I will not give up my protest.
"I was afraid, but now I am a skeleton and almost dead. There is so little of me left and I am not afraid. But they – the authorities – have not treated me as a human being and that is wrong."
Muazu arrived in the UK in July 2007 and overstayed his visitor's visa. He was detained by authorities on July 25th this year after his application to remain was refused.
He then claimed asylum, saying members of Boko Haram, a hardline Islamist group, had threatened to kill him unless he joined them.
He claims two members of his family have already been killed by the group.
The asylum claim was rejected on August 7th. He began his hunger strike in September and has now gone without food for 90 days.
Elisabeth Laing QC, appearing for Mr Muazu at the high court earlier this week, said the continued detention of Muazu contradicted the Home Office's stated policy of not detaining individuals with medical conditions which cannot be managed on site.
The continued detention also appeared to contradict the stated purpose of detention, which is legally restricted to achieving the purpose of removal.
"It is not for the purpose of punishment or deterrence or for the purpose of illustrating that the secretary of state will not give way to emotional blackmail, such as is exerted by people who go on hunger strike," she said.
"If people die in detention, they cannot be removed, and the statutory purpose of detention is not served."
Papers lodged at the court showed the detention centre's healthcare staff ruled Muazu was unfit for detention on eight occasions over a period of two weeks.
An independent doctor has said that Isa has a serious mental health problem.
"Our concern is that he is now so near death that there will not be enough time to appeal," Laing said.
"I hope the home secretary will now reconsider releasing him from detention as she now has a judgment that supports her policies."
The decision not to release Muazu to community care to recover from his hunger strike signals a new hardline approach from the Home Office, which had recently signed off on the release of four asylum detainees who went on hunger strike in June.
An 'end of life' plan has been opened for Muazu, suggesting the decision has been taken to allow his death at a ministerial level.
Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled home secretary Theresa May is not holding the detainee unlawfully, saying his refusal of food and fluid is still his own decision to take.
"His detention does not become unlawful simply because he is determined on that outcome", he said.
Jerome Phelps, from campaign group Detention Action, said: "Medical experts have found that Isa is too unwell to be held in a high security detention centre and that he should be released.
"We are deeply saddened by this decision, which means that Isa is likely to die imminently.
"He came to this country seeking safety and may die on a mattress on the floor of an immigration detention centre."
The size of the immigration detention estate has grown rapidly in recent years, with now up to 1,000 places reserved for this purpose.
The Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases but added that all detainees have access to medical care and that any who were unwell were put on a care plan which was reviewed on a daily basis.
A hearing date for the case is set for Monday.