Much has already been written about the fiasco that was the attempted removal of failed asylum seeker Isa Muazu. Muazu entered the UK in 2007 on a visit visa and subsequently overstayed. He made an application to regularise his status in 2011, which was refused, and then claimed asylum in July 2013, at which point he was detained.
Thus far there is nothing unusual about his case. Regrettably for genuine visitors, whose applications are often treated with cynicism as a result, some people do overstay their visas. Nigeria is on the list of countries designated wholly or partially safe under section 94(4) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which requires the Home Office to consider certifying an asylum claim as clearly unfounded if the claim is refused. This list currently includes 26 countries.
Nigeria is on the list not because there is no danger of persecution in that state – the murderous statistics of Boko Haram, the group Muazu feared, speak for themselves – but because an asylum claimant must show they cannot seek state protection and cannot relocate internally before they can succeed in obtaining international protection. For those who fear Boko Haram, who operate in the north, the 1951 refugee convention requires them to demonstrate that they could not reasonably live in another part of Nigeria, such as the Christian south where the group is not active. Likewise those who fear ill-treatment in the Niger delta, usually from the security forces who protect the oil industry, will find it difficult to show that they could not relocate outside the Niger delta to avoid such persecution. Fear of “cultists” – an innocuous-sounding descriptor for powerful, violent groups, such as those responsible for the torso in the Thames case – is also a basis for asylum claims, but again, such cults are usually, although not always local.
This is not to suggest that all Nigerian asylum claims are hopeless. Claims can and do succeed, but many, even where the claim is based on a real fear, will stumble at the first hurdle of internal relocation.
Muazu was detained on 25 July 2013 so his case could be fast-tracked – yet by the time his claim against unlawful detention was heard on 17 October 2013, he did not have travel documents. He did, however, have incipient mental health problems, which were resulting in his refusing food as a result of delusions. By 10 October he was ill. By the end of November, when a removal was finally attempted, he was critical.
There is no doubt that Muazu’s asylum claim was one he was entitled to make: everyone is entitled to request asylum. The decision to refuse him, without knowing the full details of it, appears unremarkable. However, detaining and fast-tracking him seems absurd. What is the point of fast-tracking a person who does not have the appropriate documents for removal? If Muazu had not spent four months in detention, it seems probable his mental health would not have deteriorated to the extent it has. Having reached this point, it is unsurprising most people were horrified by the attempted removal.
A system that returns failed asylum seekers is entirely appropriate, but one that hires a private plane at vast expense to get a dying man out of the country begins to look like the immigration equivalent of a show trial – a show removal designed to uphold the home secretary’s power at the expense of the most basic humanitarian instincts.
This removal has turned from a show to a spectacle, though, with Nigeria refusing to allow the plane to land. Muazu is now back in the UK, once again in immigration detention, and presumably still extremely ill. Nigeria now says it will accept him; it remains to be seen if removal will in fact be effected.
In this case it was clear from the outset that Isa Muazu could not be removed until he had the relevant documents. It is a stark reminder of the extreme damage long-term immigration detention can do – to the public purse and to the home secretary’s credibility, as well, as more importantly, to the physical and mental health of the detainee.
• This article was amended on 5 December 2013 to correct the spelling of Isa Muazu’s name, from Isa Muaza as the original said.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.
This article titled “Isa Muazu’s botched deportation is an inhumane show of power” was written by Julian Norman, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 3rd December 2013 17.12 UTC
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate