Private jet standing by to deport 'close to death' hunger striker Isa Muazu to Nigeria
He now weighs just 53 kilos, despite being 5ft 11in tall - but appeals to Home Office seem to be unheeded
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday, covering Sarah Cassidy’s maternity leave. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 28 November 2013
The Home Office has reserved a private jet to deport a man who has been on hunger strike in immigration detention for nearly 100 days.
Isa Muazu's lawyers are making final attempts to prevent his removal on Friday. They argue that Mr Muazu, who is now so thin he has been described as "close to death", is too unwell to fly.
Mr Muazu was originally supposed to be flown to Nigeria on a Virgin Atlantic flight on Wednesday, but the booking was scrapped in favour of one for Friday. His new flight number EDC684 is registered with Air Scotland Charter Ltd, an aviation firm whose fleet includes Alan Sugar's private plane.
It is not known how much the flight will cost, but a similar aircraft used to deport radical preacher Abu Qatada to Jordan was estimated to cost the Home Office more than £50,000 to hire.
Phil Miller, a researcher at Corporate Watch, which discovered the jet booking, said: "The Home Office seem determined to deport Isa Muazu whatever the cost to his life and the public purse, even splashing out on a private jet just to bundle him out of the country."
Mr Muazu has been held in detention since he claimed asylum in July, as part of a tougher fast-track system. The 45-year-old has been refusing food for most of that time and told The Independent he was willing to die rather than return home.
Describing himself as looking like "a skeleton", Mr Muazu now weighs just 53 kilos, despite being 5 foot 11 tall.
A letter signed by leading actors, artists and campaigners was delivered to Home Secretary Theresa May on Thursday demanding she show clemency on his case. The 100 signatories included Juliet Stevenson, Dame Harriet Walter and author Stella Duffy.
The letter, which was also signed by human rights organisations including Amnesty and Liberty, says: "Despite compelling medical evidence and in the context of mounting political pressure from cross party parliamentarians, the decision to continue Isa's detention and pursue Isa's deportation contradicts medical advice and shows no regard for the value of his life. We would argue that this goes well beyond a 'hostile environment' and has far reaching consequences for society as a whole."
Campaigners held a candlelit vigil outside the Home Office to express concern about his case and the department's apparent hardening in its stance against asylum-seekers.
Vigil organiser, Nancy Maller said "It's so important that we stand against this, never before has the Home Office been so bold as to intentionally let someone die in immigration detention or go against all medical advice and force someone out of the country on a stretcher who cannot see and cannot stand because he is so weak"
The case that Mr Muazu was being held unlawfully was rejected in the Court of Appeal on Monday. He originally claimed asylum in July, saying that he faced persecution from the hardline Islamist group Boko Haram. His case was fast-tracked and was refused in August, just seven days after his interview.
Mr Muazu first arrived in Britain on an ordinary visitors' visa in 2007 but overstayed and says this is because he is frightened to return home.
A spokeswoman for Air Charter Scotland said the company had no comment. A spokesman for Alan Sugar said that his jet would not be used in the removal.
A spokesman for the Home Office did not deny the department had booked the jet and said: "We do not routinely comment on individual cases".
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