‘In the name of justice and mercy’: Bishop demands Theresa May cancels hunger strike deportation

Virgin airlines and Theresa May have been urged to cancel the deportation of an asylum seeker who is understood to be close to death, amid a last-ditch effort to stop the flight before it leaves tomorrow night.

John Packer, bishop of Ripon and Leeds, said the decision to deport Isa Muazu should be re-considered "in the name of both justice and mercy".

Muazu has not eaten for over 90 days, as he pursues a hunger strike against his detention.

He claims Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has already killed members of his family and will target him upon his return to Nigeria.

Yesterday he lost his appeal and is now tabled to be returned to his home country tomorrow evening on a Virgin Atlantic flight, despite reports from supporters than he is now struggling to see or stand.

"It cannot be right to deport someone to Nigeria when they are in danger of attack from Boko Haram," Packer told Politics.co.uk.

"It also cannot be right to deport someone who is close to death.

"My appeal to Virgin Atlantic would be to refuse to accept on their flight someone who is not fit to fly.

"This seems an astonishing decision by the Home Office and I urge the home secretary to re-consider it in the name of both justice and mercy."

The call from the bishop marks the first intervention by the Church of England in the row, following an outcry from human rights campaigners.

A coalition of MPs, peers and campaigners have tried to slow down or halt deportation proceedings in recent days, but to no avail.

"Isa is not fit enough to survive being returned to Nigeria. He is extremely weak from not eating. He is finding it hard to see or to walk," supporters from the Glasgow Unity centre said.

"If he is returned to Nigeria there is a strong possibility that he may die. The Home Office have acknowledged this fact by stating they will deport him with a medical team if necessary."

Campaigners are calling on supporters to lobby Virgin, demanding they refuse to participate in the deportation.

Virgin and the Home Office said they do not comment on individual cases.

Both Virgin and British Airways allow deportations to take place on their scheduled flights.