Shiromini Satkunarajah, an engineering student at Bangor University who has lived in the United Kingdom since she was 12, faces deportation to Sri Lanka tomorrow, with just three months left to her graduation.
The student who is pegged to graduate with “first-class honours” was arrested last week and taken to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, after her appeal for asylum was rejected.
Shiromini was told by the U.K.’s Home Office that she and her mother will be sent back to her birthplace, Sri Lanka, on Feb 28.
Shiromini arrived in the U.K. in 2009, together with her parents to flee the Sri Lankan Civil War. She was a dependent on her father’s student visa until 2011, when he passed away. She and her mother were subsequently allowed to stay while she finished her secondary schooling and started university.
While their application for asylum and leave to remain in the U.K. were subsequently denied, she was allowed to stay throughout the appeal process.
On Feb 21, however, Shiromini was told that her asylum application had been rejected. The letter, which stated: “You do not have a right to appeal or administrative review against the decision to refuse your application”, led to Shiromini and her mother’s arrest last Thursday.
The 20-year-old student has since launched a petition titled, “Stop Shiromini getting deported. She is three months away from completing a degree” calling on Amber Rudd, U.K.’s home secretary, to reconsider her asylum application.
“I seek for help from everyone to overturn the decision to deport me on 28 February,” the student wrote in a message accompanying the petition that has since gained more than 24,000 signatures.
“It is not fair that she only has three months left to finish her degree. At least let her finish that,” said a family member who did not want to be named to BBC Wales.
“Shiromini came here when she was 12, her friends and family are here. She knows no-one and has nothing at all in Sri Lanka.”
The Home Office told BBC that it does not routinely comment on individual cases, but added: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who genuinely need it and every case is carefully considered on its individual merits.”
During her first year of study, Shiromini reportedly scored 84 percent. She went on to score 77 percent in her second year and 87.5 percent so far in the first semester of third year. She is on track to receive a first-class honours in her Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) in Electronic Engineering (Honors) degree from the university.
Iestyn Pierce, Bangor University’s head of electrical engineering, described Shiromini as “exceptionally able and diligent”.
“Shiromini figures among the very best students, having secured very high grades in her examinations this January,” he added, as quoted by the BBC.
“If allowed to graduate she would be sure to be a valuable member of the workforce in what is a world-wide shortage subject.”
Many parties have come out in support of Shiromini and against the Home Office’s decision, including student groups and parliamentarians.
The National Union of Students (NUS) Wales’ deputy president Carmen Smith told BBC Wales: “We want the home secretary to stop the callous and inhumane deportation of Shiromini.
“She doesn’t have any family or friends in Sri Lanka. Wales is her home.
“She has three months left of her degree. It’s a brutal thing to do at such a time in her educational experience,” Smith said.
Arfon MP Hywel Williams said the Home Office’s action showed “heartless indifference” to Shiromini.
“Sri Lanka is still a very dangerous place and Shiromini has had no real ties with the country.
“Her imminent deportation is not only unjust and unfair but will deprive Wales and indeed the UK economy of the contribution she will make,” he said.
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