Hunger strike asylum seeker Isa Muazu removed from UK

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Isa Muazu
Image caption,
Isa Muazu said he would "rather die" than be removed from the UK

Lawyers for a failed asylum seeker who was on hunger strike have said the Home Office has confirmed his removal from the UK.

They said Isa Muazu, 45, is now "near death", but the Home Office said he was "fit to fly" back to Nigeria.

The Court of Appeal had ruled against his argument he was being "unlawfully held" at the Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre in west London.

Last-minute challenges by his lawyers to halt his removal were also rejected.

Mr Muazu began his hunger strike in September, arguing his asylum claim "was not treated fairly".

He said that he came to the UK "for a better life", and would "rather die" than face removal.

His lawyers launched two last-minute attempts to halt his removal at midnight on Thursday and 06:00 GMT on Friday, but each challenge was rejected by a judge.

Solicitor Toufique Hossain said Mr Muazu had not been answering his phone since early on Friday and he believed a charter flight had been booked to fly him to Abuja, Nigeria, at 08:00 GMT.

'Like a skeleton'

Neither the Home Office nor the charter flight company would comment.

On Thursday night protesters gathered outside Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow Airport.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed one man was arrested for criminal damage and was reported to have glued himself to a gate.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors said in a statement that Mr Muazu feared he would be "killed by Islamic extremists" on his return to Nigeria.

Mr Muazu has been held in detention since he claimed asylum in July, saying he faced persecution from the hardline Islamic group Boko Haram.

His case was fast-tracked but refused in August, just seven days after his interview.

Mr Muazu's supporters say he has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days.

His lawyers said that despite being 5ft 11in (1.8m) tall, he weighed just eight stone (53kg) and Mr Muazu had told the Independent newspaper he looked "like a skeleton".

Mr Hossain also said that Mr Muazu's removal was originally set by scheduled flight for 27 November.

This was then rearranged for "express reasons of administrative preference".

Mr Hossain said: "The home secretary went to great lengths to remove this seriously-ill man from the UK.

"She didn't allow him an in-country right of appeal against his asylum refusal - at massive expense to taxpayers, she hired a private charter plane to remove Mr Muazu to Nigeria."

Mr Hossain said he now "did not know" where Mr Muazu was. "We lost contact with him late last night," he said.

"We fear for his safety now on return but we will be looking at pursuing further appeals if we do make contact with him in Nigeria. He should not have been removed from the UK."