Fury as UK deports City businessman

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The Independent Online
A SUCCESSFUL London-based commodities broker is to be deported today to Nigeria, despite the fact that he has no home or friends in the West African state.

Ben James, 30, who has lived in Britain since he was enrolled in a private school at the age of 14, was yesterday taken by the private security company Group 4 to a detention centre near Gatwick airport.

Mike O'Brien, the Immigration minister, has been unmoved by representations on behalf of Nigerian-born Mr James by his MP, Tessa Jowell, the Health minister, and Sir Herman Ouseley, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, who became personally interested in the case.

Sir Herman said last night: "I am personally disgusted that any individual can be treated in this manner and I am completely devastated by such crass inhumanity and arrogance."

Some of Mr James' supporters believe the decision is linked to the election last week of a civilian government in Nigeria, which was re-admitted to the Commonwealth last weekend.

Last week, in an almost identical case to Mr James', immigration officials deported Kiki Gil, 26, a Nigerian-born woman who had been living in Britain since the age of 10 and who is married to a BBC sound engineer.

Mrs Gil was put on a plane to Lagos without even being allowed to pack her bags or say goodbye to her husband.

Yesterday, Mr James' supporters were desperately trying to persuade the Home Office to allow him time to take some possessions with him.

A spokesman for Ms Jowell's office said: "We have done everything we possibly can but the Home Office are simply not budging. We are asking the Home Office to delay so that he can get some personal effects together."

Mr James' vicar, the Reverend Malcolm Johnson, who was with him when he was arrested when making a routine monthly appearance at a London police station yesterday, said: "Ben is a model person and a very impressive young man. He has done well, he pays his taxes and contributes to society."

Mr James was brought to Britain 16 years ago by his father, who feared political persecution, and enrolled at Upper Tooting Independent High School, south London.

He was forced to leave school at 16 after his parents stopped paying his fees but told him it was not safe to come home. He took a succession of low-paid jobs then carved out a successful career in the financial services industry.

After five years working for Guardian Royal Exchange, he set up his own business trading in commodities. He earns pounds 40,000 a year. He is taking an MBA through the Open University.

In an interview with The Independent last September, Mr James said: "I am a high tax payer, I pay my mortgage and I have not got a criminal record, but hard work and merit don't seem to count. Would they prefer I had six kids that I could not afford to support?"

Mr James, who changed his name from Olawale Babatayo, came to the attention of the immigration authorities because he approached them in an attempt to regularise his status. But because he had originally been given only three years leave to remain in Britain he was issued with a deportation notice.

During a seven-year legal battle to stay in Britain - "the only country I know" - he has never tried to abscond and has complied fully with requirements to report to the authorities. He has spent pounds 20,000 in legal bills fighting deportation.

Mr James, who can no longer speak his childhood language, Yoruba, said that he is so anglicised that members of the Nigerian community in Britain do not accept him as African. "I would have no way of starting a new life there [in Nigeria]."

The Home Office maintains that, as an "overstayer", Mr James has no right to choose to live in Britain.