The commodities broker Ben James, who was sent to Britain as a 14-year- old schoolboy and has no home or friends in West Africa, is being held in a detention centre near Gatwick. Mike O'Brien, the Immigration minister, had given the go-ahead for him to be arrested on Tuesday morning and deported within 48 hours - without even time to collect his belongings.
The decision caused outrage among Mr James's supporters, including Sir Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, who described the businessman's treatment as "crass inhumanity and arrogance". But hours before he was due to be put on a plane to Lagos, Mr James's solicitor, David Burgess, won the reprieve by obtaining an injunction at the High Court in London. The Home Office has granted Mr James, 30, a stay of removal, while his case is reviewed.
Speaking last night from Tinsley House detention centre, Mr James, whose battle to stay in Britain was first revealed in The Independent last year, said: "I am trying very hard not to lose my mind while this is going on." He said he had not slept or eaten for the past two days because of his fear of being deported.
"I don't speak the language in Nigeria and I don't know where anybody is. I don't even have a penny in my pocket because my wallet was in my car when I was arrested," he said.
"I don't have a Nigerian passport. To all intents and purposes I am British. Everything I own and all my plans in life are here."
Mr James said that until yesterday afternoon he washeld in a segregation unit under constant guard. "I am being treated like a criminal," he said. "I have never given any reason for this kind of treatment or for anyone to doubt my integrity."
Mr James was enrolled in Upper Tooting Independent High School, south London, by his father, who feared political persecution. Two years later, he was forced to leave school when his parents stopped sending his fees, but his parents told him it was not safe to return home.
The Home Office maintains that Mr James had leave to stay for three years after his arrival but has been living as an illegal immigrant since the age of 17.Reuse content