Sunday, 17 November 2013

Britain Issues “End Of Life Plan” To Hunger-Striking Nigerian AsylumSeeker; Who Is More Than 80 Days On Hunger Strike and Is Near Death

An aerial view of a 2006 protest at Harmondsworth immigration
 detention centre, where the Nigerian man is being held.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

British home Office has issued an 'end of life plan' to a detained failed Nigerian asylum seeker who
 has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days and is said to be near death.

The man, who suffers mental health problems, was deemed medically unfit to be detained in October
 but remains in custody, with a judge due to rule next week on whether he will be released.

The Nigerian man claims his life is in danger from an Islamist group, Boko Haram – named on 
Thursday as a terrorist organisation by the US. The move to keep him in custody is seen as part of a hardline

 approach by British ministers, following the release in June of four asylum detainees who were on 
hunger strike in protest at their detention.

A source at the immigration detention centre said staff have been warned to "expect a hunger striker
 to die".

Ifa Muaza, 45, sleeps on a mattress on the floor at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near 
Heathrow. Staff are afraid he would fall out of a normal bed. He speaks in a whisper and takes long 
pauses between words.

He arrived in Britain seven years ago from Maiduguri in the northeast of Nigeria.

He claims he left his home because members of Boko Haram, a hardline Islamist group, threatened to 
kill him unless he joined them. He claims two members of his family have been killed by the group.

He travelled to the UK on a valid visitor's visa, but overstayed his time limit and went underground in southeast

 London, where he found work using a false name. In May 2011, he applied for leave to remain in the 
UK but was refused. In July this year he applied for asylum on the grounds his life would be in danger if 
he returned to Nigeria.

He was then detained in Harmondsworth. He began his hunger strike almost immediately, on the grounds
 his dietary and medical needs could not be met in detention. He suffers from hepatitis B, kidney problems
 and stomach ulcers and had been on a special diet.

He has been diagnosed as psychotic and suffering severe depression.

Medical staff at Harmondsworth on 26 October 2013 informed the Home Office that Muaza was not fit 
to be detained because of his deteriorating medical state. Two days later his lawyers went to the high 
court arguing that his medical needs could not be managed in detention.

Mr Justice Collins refused to release him but said: "This is a worrying case, but it is important to appreciate
 that those who use a hunger strike to manipulate their position will not succeed in doing so provided they
 have mental capacity."

The judge ordered a full hearing to be expedited. The case went before Mr Justice Ouseley on Thursday
 [Nov. 14] and judgment was deferred until early next week.

Speaking to the Guardian from Harmondsworth on Thursday, Muaza said he began the hunger strike in 
protest at his detention in prison. He said he had never in his life been in a jail and had never committed 
a crime.

He said he knew the members of the fundamentalist group, as many of them had grown up with him. 
He said they called him a traitor for refusing to join them said they would kill him if he refused. He said 
the group killed police and soldiers, so he knew they would kill him.

Asked if he was prepared to die, he said:

I was afraid, but now I am a skeleton and almost dead. There is so little of me left and I am 
not afraid. But they – the authorities – have not treated me as a human being and that is wrong.

A spokesman for Detention Action, a charity supporting asylum detainees, said it was deeply concerned
 that a highly vulnerable person with mental health issues is now close to death.

"He has been considered unfit for detention since October, but remains in custody against expert medical
 advice," he said.

Muaza's solicitor is Sue Willman from Deighton Pierce Glynn. She said the home secretary has decided
 immigration control is more important than her client's life.

"I am concerned my client will not survive to know the court's decision as to whether or not he should 
be released," she said.

A Home Office spokesman said the department did not comment on individual cases.

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