U-turn over plan to deport broker

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THE HOME SECRETARY changed his mind yesterday over the proposed deportation to Nigeria of a London commodities broker.

Jack Straw bowed to pressure from a senior judge and agreed to allow the case of Ben James to be reconsidered urgently by an independent adjudicator. Outside the court, Mr James said the decision had given him a "tremendous lift" but said he was "broke" after spending more than pounds 30,000 in legal fees in his eight-year battle to avoid deportation.

Mr James, who was abandoned in London by his parents as a 14-year-old schoolboy, said: "It's quite absurd for the Government to keep chasing me. They have had six or seven in their legal team here to fight me. It does not make sense."

He added: "There's no way I can pay the costs, I simply do not have the money. As we speak I'm broke. But I have got my health, my will and my determination. With those three things I can find a way to make a living."

His lawyer, David Burgess, said he was very confident that the fresh adjudication would go in favour of Mr James.

He said: "I don't imagine for one minute it's going to go against him. Of everyone who has looked at this case it only seems to be the Home Office that is hanging on to the view that Ben should go."

He called on the Home Secretary to drop the deportation case immediately.

Mr James, 31, said he would be prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, rather than face life in Nigeria.

Thoroughly Anglicised, he has no friends in the West African state and no longer speaks any native languages. "There are people that are related to me but I cannot just turn up after 16 years and say `How are you?'. This is my home. It's as simple as that," he said.

Conducting a judicial review of Mr James's case, Mr Justice Scott Baker heard evidence from the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Sir Herman Ouseley, that the commodities broker had become a role model for young black men and his deportation would be "very damaging" for race relations in London.

The judge urged the Home Secretary to think about the case again. "There is clearly a substantial perception that the wrong decision has been made in some quarters," he said.

During the hearing, the oak-panelled Court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand was full of Mr James's supporters wearing yellow carnations - his favourite colour. Sacks containing 30,000 letters of support had been brought to the front of the building.

Philip Sales, for the Home Secretary, said Mr Straw had reconsidered the position overnight and, while maintaining he had done nothing unlawful, had decided to exercise his discretion. The Home Secretary "had to have careful regard to public perceptions of the matter," he said. "Your lordship's invitation was a further item to be taken into the balance."

The Home Office maintains that Mr James has been an illegal immigrant since his leave to remain in Britain expired 13 years ago.

Mr Straw believes that Mr James was not abandoned by his family and suspects that he has more contact with his relatives than he has said.