May escapes Commons scrutiny despite botched Isa Muazu deportation
Theresa May once again escaped facing questions about her conduct in the Isa Muazu case today, despite a botched deportation attempt which cost the taxpayer up to £180,000.
No MP stood up to ask the home secretary about the case in the one hour allotted to Home Office questions and an urgent question request by Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert was not selected.
The only ray of good news for supporters of the Nigerian hunger striker was that Lord Roberts of Llandudno managed to secure a question in the Lords on Wednesday.
However, even Wednesday may be too late for Muazu, amid reports that Nigerian officials had now given the UK authorisation to land the plane with Muazu on it.
Expectations for the matter to come up in Home Office questions were heightened after Labour broke its silence on the issue last night.
"Theresa May needs to explain how this case has been handled," shadow immigration minister David Hanson said.
"How could the Home Office put a man in this medical condition on a long flight at taxpayers' expense with no agreement from anyone that the plane could actually land?
"Deportations should be carried out with competence and humanity – neither of those things seem to have happened in this case."
Hanson's office failed to respond to requests for further comment today.
Campaigners for Muazu have been trying to get the case discussed in the Commons for several weeks, but their urgent questions have not been selected.
It was thought that the refusal to select the questions was because authorities considered the matter sub judice – meaning it is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.
But now that the Lords clearly considers the matter open for debate in parliament, it is unclear why Commons authorities do not follow suit.
Muazu was forcibly removed on a charter flight costing the taxpayer up to £180,000 on Friday morning but the plane was denied landing rights to Nigeria and then returned to the UK.
The refusal came despite private assurances from May that she had notified Nigerian officials of the Muazu deportation.
The Home Office has been refusing to make any statement about the Muazu deportation for weeks, despite pressure from parliamentarians, lawyers and human rights campaigners.
A petition by actors and human rights groups was not responded to and neither was a cross-party letter from MPs and peers calling for the home secretary to show compassion.
May was asked to change her position during a meeting with Lord Roberts but to no avail.
"She wasn't bending at all. There was no sign of clemency at all," he told Politics.co.uk.
In contrast to the public silence, Home Office officials were working furiously behind-the-scenes to secure the deportation.
The department refused an in-country appeal against Muazu's asylum decision and a private plane was hired at taxpayers' expense after a scheduled deportation on a Virgin Atlantic flight was mysteriously cancelled.
Queen's counsel were also instructed to make submissions during an out-of-hours injunction.
Campaigners said Home Office officials promised to make sure there would be medical staff on the deportation flight, but that just one embassy official was present when the plane departed from the UK.
Muazu is a Nigerian asylum seeker who fears he will be targeted by Islamic terror group Boka Haram if he returns to his home country. He claims the group has already killed several members of his family.
He had been on hunger strike for over 90 days when he was deported and was no longer able to see or stand.
He has now begun to eat again.