A BUSINESSMAN who was abandoned in Britain by his family as a 14-year-old is to be deported.
Ben James, a commodities broker, is to be sent to Nigeria, although he has no home or friends in that country and no longer speaks his original language, Yoruba.
He was brought to Britain by his father nearly 16 years ago and enrolled in a private school. Mr James, whose father feared political persecution, has had no contact with his parents since he was at school.
Tessa Jowell, the Health minister and Mr James's constituency MP, has called on Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to look favourably on his case, claiming that to deport him serves no public interest.
"I am very sympathetic to Ben James being allowed residency here," she said.
"Although I understand the regulations the Home Office has to apply, I think he should be given very sympathetic consideration."
But despite an announcement by the Government in July that all asylum- seekers who arrived in Britain before 1993 would be given leave to stay, Mr James seems certain to be deported.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The bottom line is that he is an over- stayer."
Mr James, who changed his name from Olawale Babatayo, was educated at Upper Tooting Independent High School, south London, but had leave to remain in Britain only for three years.
He left school at the age of 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 to support himself, 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 physical commodities. He earns pounds 40,000 a year.
Mr James came to the attention of the immigration authorities only because on the advice of friends he approached them in an attempt to regularise his status. Officials issued him with a deportation notice.
"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," he said. "Would they prefer I had six kids that I could not afford to support?"
During a seven-year legal battle to remain in Britain - "the only country I know" - he has never tried to abscond and has complied fully with requirements to report monthly to the authorities. He has spent pounds 20,000 in legal bills, fighting deportation.
Although he believes his family had political enemies, he is not an asylum- seeker. "I cannot prove that I would be shot and I am not going to start lying about it," he said.
Mr James feels that, having spent all his adult life in Britain, he should be allowed to stay on compassionate grounds.
"If I had come here as an adult I could understand why they might think I had a plan to stay. But I had no choice in this. I was only 14 and I didn't know what was going on."
More than 60 friends, some of whom have known "Wale" since he was 14, are campaigning to persuade the Home Secretary to change his mind.
Javed Sharif, his former karate teacher, said: "In my opinion, he is a one-way person and that way is success in every part of life; he took any job necessary to pay his way. I have found him to be honest, determined but unlucky due to circumstances."
Mr James said that he is so anglicised that members of the Nigerian community in Britain do not accept him as African. "When I lived in Nigeria as a boy I spent most of the time in boarding school," he said. "I would have no way of starting a new life there."
The Home Office spokesman said that the case had been considered at ministerial level. "Ministers have said that although he has chosen to settle here he did not have any right to do so," the spokesman said.
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