The UK Government has delayed the deportation of an electrical engineering student at Bangor University back to Sri Lanka after a petition calling for her protection reached 160,000 signatures.
Shiromini Satkunarajah was only 12 when her family fled Sri Lanka’s civil war and came to the UK. She was originally listed as a dependent on her father’s student visa but he died in 2011. She was granted leave to finish her secondary school studies but her application for a full student visa was denied and despite being only months away from finishing her studies, Shiromini was taken into custody at Yarl’s Wood last Tuesday with her mother to be deported.
The “refusal letter” they were given at the time stated, “you do not have the right to appeal or conduct an administrative review against the decision to refuse your application.”
Shiromini’s story was picked up by the media and a petition to allow them to stay gained over 160,000 signatures. The Home Office has now delayed the deportation order and has given Shiromini’s legal team 14 days to outline their case. Her lawyer Raja Uruthiravinayagan, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, told The Guardian “we hope that there will not be prolonged litigation in this case during the period when Shiromini is studying.”
Last week a relative of Shiromini told The Independent “her whole life is here, all of her friends and family are here. She has no one in Sri Lanka, we’re a small family. She won’t be able to continue with her education.”
The Vice-Chancellor of Bangor University wrote to the Home Office to request she be allowed to complete her studies. In addition to this, Iestyn Pierce, the Head of the School of Electronic Engineering at Bangor University also released a statement saying “over the years I have known her she has proven to be exceptionally able and diligent, and has made valuable contributions to the school and the university…” he went on to say “I have no doubt that… Shiromini would achieve first class honours.”
Universities are one of the areas highlighted by Home Secretary Amber Rudd as needing “tougher” immigration regulations. Speaking at the Conservative Conference in October last year, she said that Ministers will be considering ways of ensuring that “people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do.” Although, as Pierce pointed out in his statement, Shiromini is studying in a “world-wide shortage subject.”
Shiromini herself said she was “very grateful to every single person who has supported [her]” and now “my priority is to get on with my studies. I need time to think and get back to my normal life.”