London Assembly demands Boris Johnson intervenes in Isa Muazu row
The London Assembly today voted unanimously for the mayor to intervene in the Isa Muazu case, in a move which significantly ratchets up the pressure on Theresa May
The move comes as the furious debate over the Nigerian asylum seeker hit the Lords, triggering the first official response from the government.
"We are concerned that all those who come into contact with the state, including Mr Muazu, are treated humanely and appropriately for their medical condition," London Assembly member Len Duvall, who proposed the motion, said.
"The way our government deals with the most vulnerable, the sick, the old, and those who claim to be fleeing from persecution, is a mark of how decent a society we are.
"The treatment of Isa Muazu raises questions about that level of decency we would all expect."
The motion was passed by 13 votes to zero.
All but one of the Conservative Assembly members had left the chamber before the motion was taken. The solitary Conservative member left, James Cleverly, did not vote.
The motion cannot compel Johnson to do anything, but the Assembly is expected to ramp up the pressure on the mayor in the days to come if he does not take action on the case.
Muazu was forcibly removed from the UK last Friday despite having gone over 90 days without food. The Nigerian asylum seeker, who fears being targeted by Islamic terror group Boko Haram upon return to his home country, could not stand or see when he was deported.
To the embarrassment of the home secretary, Nigerian authorities denied the chartered flight the right to land because the Home Office had not secured authorisation. The flight was forced to return to the UK, at a cost of up to £180,000 to the taxpayer.
Speaking this afternoon in the Lords, Lib Dem peer Lord Roberts asked the Home Office minister why Muazu's plane had been returned to the UK, given he had received assurances from the home secretary that arrangements had been made for the flight.
"Something went seriously wrong," he added.
"Why did the government attempt to remove a dying man at such financial cost?
"Will the minister end such routine and inhumane treatment – always remembering that asylum seekers, even failed asylum seekers, are human beings just like ourselves and deserve deep respect?"
Speaking for the government, Lord Taylor insisted Muazu had received careful medical attention and was currently eating and taking fluids, after he gave up on the hunger strike upon his return to the UK.
"He is mobile and continues to be fit to fly," he added.
Lord Taylopr insisted that the return of the deportation flight to the UK was for "operational reasons not connected to his health or his conduct".
Another peer asked: "Does the minister believe it was a sensible use of resources to charter an aircraft to remove a single individual from this country?"
Lord Taylor replied: "The operational practices are not a matter I want to discuss particularly. It's not the first time an aircraft has been chartered for this purpose."
The Home Office minister later questioned the doctor's report which found Muazu was not fit to fly when responding to a question from Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams.
"In the case of someone being deported they should be physically able to sustain their health during the flight," she told the minister.
"Would he agree there should be contact with the country to which he's returning to make sure a man who is seriously ill will be actually met at the airport and taken to suitable accommodation to enable him to survive?"
Lord Taylor replied: "I think my noble friend's [Lord Robert's] allegations about the condition of Mr Muazu at the time he was flying back to Nigeria are inaccurate. As I say he is currently fit to fly. He is eating and drinking and he is mobile."
The full text of the motion reads:
This Assembly calls upon the mayor of London to make urgent representations to the home secretary over the treatment of Isa Muazu whilst he was held at Harmondsworth detention centre.”
The Assembly believes the treatment of Mr Muazu has been appalling. Mr Muazu was deemed not fit to fly by his doctor yet, on 29 November, he was still stretchered onto a chartered private plane and flown to Nigeria, where the authorities did not give permission for the plane to land. Mr Muazu has now been returned to the UK and is back in Harmondsworth detention centre. Not only is this treatment unjust but £180,000 of taxpayers' money was wasted on this chartered flight that served no purpose.
The courts and the legal process are the best place to resolve cases like this, but we remain concerned about the appropriateness of his detention and attempted deportation when Mr Muaza was in need of medical treatment. This Assembly believes Mr Muazu, who is reported to be 'seriously ill', should be receiving medical treatment in an appropriate medical facility. This Assembly calls on the mayor of London to intervene to ensure that Mr Muazu is treated with humanity, which he has not received from the government to date.