Ex-shopkeeper and ‘native legend’ informed he is not British after 50 years in UK

An ex-shopkeeper who is known as a “local legend” in Merseyside has been told he’s not British despite being in the UK for nearly 50 years.

Nelson Shardey, 74, came to the UK on a student visa from Ghana in 1977 when he was 28, but must wait around a decade before he is officially allowed to stay permanently. He had assumed he was British until 2019 when he applied for a visa to attend his mum’s funeral in Ghana and found out he had no right to be in the UK.

Mr Shardey has paid taxes all his adult life but now faces a bill of thousands of pounds to stay in the UK and access services like the NHS, according to reports. He has no access to public funds or pension credits after the Home Office refused to grant him indefinite leave to remain and wrongly advised him to apply for the Windrush scheme.

The retired news agent was granted two and a half years limited leave by the Home Office but this was later taken back after he made a mistake in an application in 2022. Speaking about the period, when he was also undergoing cancer treatment, he told the Guardian: “I could have cried but I always bottle everything in and never show my emotions. I was really shocked.

Nelson Shardey, 74, who came to the UK from Ghana in 1977, with his son Jacob (right)

Nelson Shardey, 74, who came to the UK from Ghana in 1977, with his son Jacob (right)
Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

“All along I know I am part of this country because this is where I live and this is where I’ve been working, this is where I’ve contributed to everything. I have never come across any difficulty in any department that I don’t belong here.”

The Home Office later told Mr Shardey he must apply for limited leave to remain every two and a half years and pay thousands in Home Office fees. Only after he has completed 10 years of leave – when he is 84 years old – would he be able for indefinite leave to remain.

Mr Shardey, who has adult children, has been described as a local legend and received a Liverpool Echo Mersey Marvel award in 2007 after he saved a friend from a baseball bat attack. The community in Seacombe once rallied behind him after he was burgled. He has also performed jury service.

He is now taking the Home Office to court, with his sons trying to pay for the legal fees through crowdfunding. The case is arguing that he should be treated as an exception because of how long he has been in the UK.

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Mr Shardey told the Liverpool Echo: “I have worked all my life. I want to let people know what is going on. The unfairness. All cases should be regarded on merits, not like a wholesale rule. I’m not saying I should get special treatment but I have not broken any law all along.

“It would mean a lot. This is where I call my home. My daughter is buried in Landican (in Merseyside). When I die, I want to rest there. Everything is here, my home. I’ve got all my children here, my grandchildren. This is my home. I have worked all my life to make this place a better place to live in.”

His son Jacob told the newspaper: “People are absolutely outraged, even just from the people I told. I was getting messages saying this is absolutely crazy and disgraceful, asking how could they even do this? It was just constant. I would go to the gym and Tesco and people would ask, how’s your Dad? What’s going on with your Dad? Is he okay?

“The stuff he’s done for the community and he’s been such a role model, not just for me but for like everyone else in this area too. People love him and you wouldn’t expect something like this to happen either. It’s just a kick in the teeth.”

Labour MP for Wallasey Angela Eagle added: “Nelson’s treatment by the Home Office has been appalling, and my sympathies continue to be with him and his family. This is yet another example of an under-resourced Home Office wreaking havoc on an entire family, paying little attention to the financial expense, emotional turmoil and general disruption their dither and delay all too often inflicts.”

She said her office has been in contact with the family since 2021 but that she has long known Mr Shardey “as a highly respected and active local community member and business owner”.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on active legal proceedings.”