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Meet Nelson Shardey: Ghanaian man told he is not British after 42 years in UK

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Nelson Shardey outside his old shop, Nelson's News | Photo credit - BBC

1 months ago
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A retired 74-year-old Ghanaian man who has lived in the UK for nearly 50 years must wait a decade before the Home Office will let him stay permanently.

Nelson Shardey, from Wallasey in Wirral, had for many years assumed he was officially seen as British.

He only discovered otherwise in 2019 and, despite paying taxes all his adult life, now faces paying thousands of pounds to stay and use the NHS.

The Home Office declined to comment on the ongoing legal case.

'Never queried'

Retired newsagent Mr Shardey first came to the UK in 1977 to study accountancy, on a student visa that also allowed him to work.

After a coup in his native Ghana, his family could no longer send him money for the fees.

He took on a series of jobs, making Mother's Pride bread and Kipling's Cakes near Southampton, and Bendick's Chocolate in Winchester, and said no-one ever queried his right to live or work in the UK.

He married a British woman and moved to Wallasey to run his own business, a newsagent called Nelson's News.

When that marriage ended, he married another British woman and they had two sons Jacob and Aaron.

"I tried my utmost to educate them the best way I could so that neither of them would depend on social or anything," Mr Shardey said.

He told his sons to "learn hard, get a good job, and work for themselves", and both went on to university and then careers as a research scientist and a public relations executive.

Mr Shardey said he had never left the UK, as he saw no need to and regarded it as his home.

"Nobody questioned me. I bought all my things on credit, even the house.

"I got a mortgage. And nobody questioned me about anything," he said.

Mr Shardey has performed jury service, and in 2007 was given a police award for bravery after tackling a robber who was attacking a delivery man with a baseball bat.

But in 2019, when he applied for a passport so he could go back to Ghana following the death of his mother, he was told he was not British.

The Home Office said he had no right to be in the UK.

'I can't afford to pay'

Officials told him to apply for the 10-year route to settlement, designed for people who want to move to the UK for work.

Over the 10 years, it costs about £7,000, with a further £10,500 over the same period to access the NHS.

"I cannot afford to pay any part of the money they are asking," said Mr Shardey, who is recovering from prostate cancer.

"Telling me to go through that route is a punishment, and it's not fair in any way."

"I don't understand why this fuss at all, because I put my life, my whole self into this country. "

When he tried to extend his right to stay in the UK online two years ago, he filled out the wrong form.

That meant the 10-year process had to begin again in 2023.

As a result, Mr Shardey will not be allowed to stay in the UK permanently until he is 84.

"I just thought it was a joke. It's just ridiculous," said his son Jacob, who does research in cardiovascular physiology.

"Why would he need to go and start this 10-year route when he's been here since 1977?

"He's been here longer than the people who are working in the Home Office on his case have been alive."

'Exceptional facts'

With the help of Nicola Burgess, a lawyer at Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU), Mr Shardey is now taking the Home Office to court.

His case - which his sons are trying to pay for through crowdfunding - is that the Home Office should have treated him as an exception because of the length of time he has been in the UK, and because of his bravery award and service to the community.

"We know that at least one caseworker has looked at his file and suggested that he should be granted indefinite leave to remain because there are exceptional facts," Ms Burgess said.

"And when you look at it on a personal level, if Nelson was your friend or your neighbour, you would absolutely agree that he should be given the immediate right to settle."

A Home Office spokesman said: "It would be inappropriate to comment on active legal proceedings."

source: BBC