Notes From the Margins…

The Case of Isa Muazu: a Study in Barbarism

  • December 01, 2013
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In terms of people who matter in the eyes of this government, Isa Muazu ticks very few boxes.   He is Nigerian.     He is an ‘illegal immigrant’,   a ‘visa overstayer’, and a   ‘failed’ asylum seeker – a category which is generally considered by the public to be synonymous with ‘liar’.

He is also poor, not one of the rich Chinese who Cameron is falling over himself to bring here, and has now ‘turned a page’ in Britain’s relations with the Dalai Lamai and Tibet to make sure they come.

From the point of view of the Home Office however, Muazu does have some symbolic value.     Because all the negatives listed above make it possible to remove him from the UK without anyone even blinking an eye about it.     And by doing that Theresa May and the government can add him to the statistics of removed ‘illegal immigrants’ at the end of the year, and tell the public that they have been ‘listening to their concerns’ and have kept their promise to transform the UK into an ‘inhospitable environment’ for migrants.

A noble aspiration, and we already know the lengths our Home Secretary will go to in order to realize it.   In January this year the Home Office deported a Ugandan lesbian Jackie Nanyonjo back to Uganda, who had come to the UK 5 years after being beaten by her husband.

To say that Uganda is not a hospitable country for gays would be understating it somewhat, but Nanyonjo’s application for asylum was rejected.     During her flight back she was reportedly beaten and strangled by her UKBA-contracted Reliance security escorts.

Shortly after her return to Uganda, Nanyonjo died, allegedly because of injuries she received at the hands of her escorts.

Muazu is an even more twisted variant on this tradition.     These are the salient facts:   Muazu came to the UK in 2007 on a visitor’s visa.     He stayed on after it ran out in 2008.     On 25 July this year he was detained.   He then applied for asylum, claiming that he was likely to be killed by the murderous Islamist group Boko Haram, which he says has already killed members of his family.

His application was fast-tracked and in August it was   rejected, as fast-tracked cases often are.     He was then detained at Harmondsworth removal centre in preparation for deportation.

Muazu went on hunger strike in protest at the way his asylum claim had been treated and against his detention.     The Home Office refused to release him into the community.   Instead they prepared an ‘end of life plan’ for him: a novel procedure that can be essentially translated into a very simple message: you are are an illegal immigrant and if you want to starve yourself to death that is perfectly ok, because we are going to deport you come what may.

On Friday Muazu was deported.   By that time he had gone more than 100 days without food, and weighed only 53 kilos, even though he is nearly six feet tall.   He was so ill, according to the Liberal peer Lord Roberts, who has campaigned against the deportation, that his doctor said that he was not fit to fly.

That did not stop the Home Office.     Initially the plan was to fly him out on a regular Virgin Atlantic plane, but that was cancelled, presumably because Virgin didn’t want a man who could not stand or see and might die in flight upsetting the passengers.

Undeterred, our valiant guardians of the border rented a private jet at an estimated cost of £180,000, and on Friday they flew him to Nigeria, with Home Office officials accompanying him ( How their mothers must be proud of them, I know I am).

On approaching Abuja airport however, the border warriors were thwarted once again, when the Nigerian authorities refused to let the plane land, for reasons that have not been made clear.

Instead the plane was forced to return to the UK, via Malta.     And now he is back in Harmondsworth and the Home Office has no comment.

Labour does however.   After months of silence, the shadow immigration minister has finally roused himself to question the competence and humanity of the deportation, while emphasizing its cost to the taxpayer rather than the morality of this disgusting episode, or the policies that make such things possible.

Labour does not exactly occupy the moral high ground on this issue.   It was under a Labour government in 2008, that the Ghanian ‘overstayer’ Ama Sumani was deported, even though she had cancer of the bone marrow and was kept alive through treatment that was not available in her own country.

Campaigners against her deportation predicted that she would die if she was returned, and they were right.   She was dead just over two months after arriving back in Ghana.

Even with these precedents, the case of Isa Muazu represents a new threshold in the increasingly depraved attempts by the British state to ‘defend our borders.’   The last time the British government let people die on hunger strike was in 1981 in Northern Ireland.

Then,   it was the Thatcher government refusing to allow Irish ‘terrorists’ to have political recognition.     This time the Home Office is so determined to exclude an ‘illegal immigrant’ who says that he came to the UK for a ‘better life’ that it is willing to let him starve himself to death to stop others from following his example.

Muazu is reportedly eating again, which may mean that he may live, in which case he will probably be deported again.   If he dies,   he will have proved the ‘sincerity’ of his asylum claim and he may be allowed to stay here –   in a cemetery.

Because like the drowned migrants in Lampedusa last month who   were given posthumous Italian citizenship – something that wasn’t granted to the survivors – governments don’t have a problem with   dead ‘illegal immigrants’ who cross their borders; it’s the living ones they don’t want.

I gather that Theresa May is an Anglican and a regular churchgoer.   One hopes she bonded with her God today.     But no matter how many prayers she offers up, they will not wipe away her responsibility for this shameful and disgusting act.

And a country that allows people like her get away with things like this is pretty disgusting too, and we really ought to take a good look at ourselves, and look where we are being taken.

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  1. Jessica Russell

    1st Dec 2013 - 8:47 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful post, setting out the facts, as well as highlighting some of those who have already lost their lives to this blanket policy of treating asylum seekers on the detained fast track as liars.

    The media and government(s) have colluded over the years to create a biased and misinformed general discourse around immigration. Those of us with this kind of evidence can only keep repeating what we know: it is not illegal to claim asylum, or indeed to be an economic migrant. Immigrants contribute culturally and economically to our society. Net migration suggests we need more immigrants not less, and, who of us would be brave enough, or desperate enough, to uproot ourselves from all the ties that bind us to our lives as migrants do – often not through choice.

  2. Jasmine Sallis

    2nd Dec 2013 - 12:12 am

    Really amazing piece and so important that you are as others should be questioning this country that we live in and remember and acknowledge the hundreds and thousands of individuals placed on fast track, treated like criminals, detained and stripped of the most basic rights.
    While many individuals like Isa are detained and then claim asylum in his case this was a little different as he went voluntarily to claim asylum.
    I am not suggesting either way is preferable as many individuals who do not claim asylum upon arrival or even after some time in the UK do not know about this right, are scared of being deported or have been given advise by peers not to claim for one reason or another – none of these reasons mean they do not have genuine and real asylum claims.
    Furthermore, the ‘burden of proof’ unlike in any other legal proceeding is on asylum applicants which is extremely unrealistic and difficult, particularly from inside a detention centre.
    Asylum seekers, ‘overstayers’, ‘undocumented migrants’ are treated so poorly, interrogated like criminals and unable to access mainstream protection and services.
    With the new immigration bill this will only worsen.
    We need to keep questioning the country we live in and our complicity to this and your piece is an important start!
    Thank you

  3. Carrie

    2nd Dec 2013 - 6:25 pm

    This is off-topic, but relevant in a roundabout way. More silence and inaction…

    The land-grab of Tibet by China, and the treatment of the people of Tibet by the Chinese government are important issues – in the main neglected by the UK and Europe. (I believe since 1972 all resolutions in the United Nations about human rights and other issues in, or pertaining to, Tibet have been vetoed by China.) At the highest levels the topic of Tibet is glossed-over in favour of ‘trade’ and ‘good relations’ with China.

    Maybe we should show our support for His Holiness The Dalai Lama – perhaps the most respected philosopher and religious leader of the 21st Century – by making the new DVD/film, The Road to Peace, into a massive public hit? [Ref see]

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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