University student in north Wales saved from deportation hours before flight

A Sri Lankan electrical engineering student at Bangor University in north Wales avoided deportation by the Home Office a few hours before her scheduled flight.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, 20, moved to north Wales with her parents 8 years ago as they fled the Sri Lankan Civil War. Her father’s UK student visa enabled Satkunarajah and her mother to stay in the country.

When Satkunarajah’s father passed away in 2011, the Home Office allowed her to finish her secondary education in the UK. However, Satkunarajah and her mother Roshan’s asylum application were recently rejected,  initiating the deportation process.

Shortly after the Home Office made their decision, they were moved to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire on 21 February, where they were to be kept until their flight from Manchester on the evening of 28 February.

Satkunarajah recounted the removal process to The Guardian, saying: “We were handed the refusal letter, which states: ‘You do not have a right to appeal or administrative review against the decision to refuse your application.’

“We were taken home straight away to pack a bag and taken to Caernarfon police station. My mother and I were separated and put into two cells.” Shortly afterward, they were transported to Yarl’s Wood.

In the wake of the events, a campaign was initiated, calling for a reversal of the Home Office’s decision. Tens of thousands of people got on board the campaign, including academics, students, church leaders and several politicians, including the MP of the student’s area. An accompanying petition was signed by over 140,000 people.

The Home Office’s decision has been deferred, not overturned. Thus, the future of the case is unclear. Satkunarajah, who is on track to graduate with a first-class degree in three months’ time is unsure if she will be allowed to complete her studies. However, she is back on campus and has resumed her studies for the time being.

Her legal team wrote to the Home Office stating why Satkunarajah and Roshan should be allowed to remain in the UK. The government must now swiftly decide whether to carry out the removal or overturn their decision. If they decide to pursue the deportation, Satkunarajah’s lawyers will likely request a judicial review.

Satkunarajah’s lawyer, Raja Uruthiravinayagan, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said to The Guardian: “It appears that these positive developments came about only because this case has seen a groundswell of public opinion and made a clarion call to the secretary of state. We hope that the secretary of state has not taken these steps with the view to temporarily assuage public outrage.

“We are inviting the secretary of state to restore a modicum of justice and fairness in our broken system and grant our client and her mother a more stable form of leave to remain in the United Kingdom on a long-term basis.”

The Student spoke to Patrick Garratt, Edinburgh University Students’ Association Vice President Academic Affairs, about the circumstances. 

“The near deportation of Shiromini highlights how ruthless the Home Office can prove to be,” Garratt remarked.

“The Home Office now emphasises how individuals who are deported can make ‘out-of-country’ appeals to return to the UK.

“However, it has created the conditions for an uncompassionate approach to supporting those individuals who are living in the UK, by making it immensely difficult for them to appeal whilst they are in the UK.

“The operation of institutions like Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is emblematic of how the UK Government can dehumanise immigrants and asylum seekers.”

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