The Nigerian Tribune has reported the pathetic story of Isa Muazu, a failed asylum seeker from Nigeria who has been on a hunger strike and has refused hospital treatment in protest over the way his asylum case was handled and his lawyers are claiming he “is close to death” and would only consent to hospital treatment if he is released on bail.
Despite Muazu’s deteriorating health – loss of vision, severe chest pains and difficulty in breathing, high court judge, Justice Ouseley, on Tuesday, ruled in favour of the Home Secretary stating that, Isa’s detention is lawful. He further added that Isa’s refusal of food and fluid is still his own decision to make.
“His detention does not become unlawful simply because he is determined on that outcome”, he said.
Isa’s lawyers are not in agreement with the judge and are calling the verdict a “death sentence”.
“Our concern is that he is now so near death that there will not be enough time to appeal,” they said.
However, three judges on Thursday unanimously ordered an urgent hearing of the appeal, which will take place on Monday but they refused to direct his release from Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near Heathrow.
The Court of Appeal decision was given by Lord Justice Maurice Kay, vice-president of the Court of Appeal, sitting with Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice Ryder.
They described Isa as being “in a sorry state” and an end of life care plan had been prepared for him at the detention centre.
But the Court of Appeal justices insisted he had chosen not to eat, saying, “that is his prerogative and we do not think he is entitled to interim relief”.
Meanwhile, plans to remove Isa from the UK next week are underway, after a recent detention review declared him fit to travel, aided medically.
Isa entered the UK in 2007 on a visitor’s visa but did not leave when it expired in January 2008 and became an over-stayer. He subsequently went underground in Southeast London, where he found work using a false name.
In May 2011, he applied for leave to remain but was refused. He then applied for asylum this year on the grounds that his life would be in danger if he returned to Nigeria. According to him, he grew up with members of the dreaded Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and they wanted him to join their cause. He refused and fled. The group then branded him a traitor and exacted revenge on him by killing members of his family.
According to Isa, with constant news of the mayhem Boko Haram is causing in Nigeria, he is petrified of going back home, as he is convinced they would not have mercy on him. He would rather die in the UK than be deported to Nigeria.
But he was detained on the same day he made the application while undergoing asylum screening.
Isa claimed he took with him a special diet due to his bad health. He is suffering from hepatitis B, stomach ulcer and a kidney condition, but was not allowed to take the food into the screening centre and was assured at the start of his interview that he would not be detained.
He was subsequently detained and no provision was made towards his dietary and health needs.
He was refused asylum on the August 7, on the basis that his claim was “manifestly unfounded” and he began his hunger strike in September.
Though Isa’s story is moving and automatically evokes sympathy, the UK’s zero tolerance for illegal immigrants and their ploys to avoid removal, have made the system unsympathetic and tougher verdicts are being handed out in cases where a simpler verdict will be sufficient.
Seeking asylum in the UK is complicated because the Home Office needs to be sure the claim is not bogus and an asylum claim sought at port of entry is given more credibility than overstaying on a visa before applying for asylum, as is the case with Isa’s.
Calls for compassion to the Home Office seem useless as Isa waits for Monday when a decision will be made on his case. His supporters are hoping he would still be alive then.