Britain accused of immigrant purge

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THE HOME Office has embarked on a deliberate purge of long-standing African-born residents who have failed to legitimise their immigration status, it was claimed last night.

Immigrant groups have been shocked by deportation cases involving a married banker, a commodities broker, a father of two British children and an award-winning street cleaner who have lived in Britain for between 11 and 16 years.

The cases will alarm backbench Labour MPs already unhappy at the Government's Immigration and Asylum Bill, which began its report stage in the Commons yesterday.

Mick Chatwin, legal director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "Clearly there is a pattern here. It seems like they are rounding them up and throwing them out. All these people are making significant contributions to British society and there is no public interest in removing them except sending a signal of how tough we can be."

Kofi Boateng, the street cleaner, is due to be deported to Ghana on 2 July after 11 years in Britain. He starts work at 7am sweeping dirt and litter from his patch in the Hertfordshire town of Borehamwood. He frequently works an 11-hour day and is loved by local residents, who petitioned the Home Office to let him remain on compassionate grounds. Conservative- run Hertsmere Borough Council says it has "never seen someone who takes so much pride in his job" and his case has been taken up by his MP James Clappison, the Tory spokesman on Home Affairs.

Mr Boateng, 39, said: "I am here in snow, summer or winter. I am a Christian and everything I do, I do it from my heart. I am not a criminal and I don't understand why I am not allowed to stay in this country."

Mr Boateng, who came to Britain as an exiled member of the opposition Ghana Democratic Movement, was refused asylum. He said he had no life in his homeland.

Kiki Gil, a City bank worker, has already been deported to Nigeria, a country she left 16 years ago as a 10-year-old child. Her British husband, a BBC sound engineer, Chris Gil, is preparing to fly to Lagos, where his traumatised wife has been living for the past three weeks. He said yesterday: "I am going to have to make a drastic change in my life in order to be with her. We are just trying to find a way that we can be together whilst this is sorted out."

Ben James, the commodities broker who faces deportation to Nigeria next month if he loses a judicial review of his case, has received three proposals of marriage and three offers of adoption since his case came to public attention. Mr James, 30, was enrolled in a London school at 14, but was abandoned by his parents two years later.

Overstretched immigration officers believe the wrong cases are being addressed. Peter Roberts of the staff union PCS said: "It's not surprising that there is a perception of unfairness when this type of case is set against the stark fact that the backlog of asylum cases now exceeds 75,000, an increase of almost 50 per cent on last year."

Also fearing deportation to Nigeria is the Eboka family from south London. Emmanuel Eboka, 26, who came to Britain as a 14-year-old, has been married for four years to his English wife, Sandra, and has two daughters aged three and four.