Bishop ‘delighted’ at lift of threat of student’s deportation

03 March 2017

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Relief: Shiromini Satkunarajah

Relief: Shiromini Satkunarajah

THE Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andy John, has spoken of his delight that a Christian student at the University of Bangor will now not be deported but allowed to complete her degree.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, 20, was arrested together with her mother last week after their asylum claim was rejected, and sent to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. She is only months away from graduating in Electronic Engineering, and is on track to receive a first-class degree.

Miss Satkunarajah was due to be deported to Sri Lanka, from where her parents fled when she was aged 12, last Tuesday, but a campaign led by Bishop John, her local MP, and others has succeeded in securing her release.

“It looks like a very good piece of news — I’m delighted,” Bishop John said on Wednesday. “Our local MP Hywel Williams was able to get a meeting with the immigration officials and make appeals on the basis of her situation.”

It was not clear whether the Home Office had given her temporary leave to remain to finish her degree, or whether she would be allowed to stay indefinitely, Bishop John said, but he was thrilled that the deportation had been prevented.

“She is a delightful person. To be about to get a first-class degree. . .it seemed extraordinary to most people that this deportation order was given before her degree was processed.

“This would do neither her nor anyone in Sri Lanka any good — it seemed to be a triumph of process over common sense,” he said. “She has demonstrated a commitment to this country. She is an outstanding student who is so popular at the university and is a committed member of the Christian Union.”

Overturning the deportation order showed that there might indeed be a human face behind the rules, which was a very good thing, Bishop John said. It was time the Home Office “reflected” on its rules and protocols, he also said.

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“I have some sympathy with immigration officials as they have a job to do, but on the other hand, the public perception is that this is uncaring and inflexible, and that can’t persist.”

Miss Satkunarajah first came to the UK eight years ago with her parents on her father’s student visa, after fleeing her home nation’s civil war. Her father died in 2011.

“I feel great,” she told The Guardian shortly after her release on Tuesday. “The only thing in my head now is to get back to uni as soon as possible and do my assignments. I haven’t finished the practical side of my dissertation yet and my deadlines are coming up pretty soon. I have to catch up with loads of work. My priority is to get back and catch up.”

The acting Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, also intervened in her case because Miss Satkunarajah and her mother worship at a church in the diocese of London.

In an open letter released before her deportation was cancelled, Bishop Broadbent wrote that Miss Satkunarajah and her mother had become an “integral part” of their parish, St James’s, Alperton, since the death of her father.

“The church has been the place where they have received love and support and found strength to move on with their lives.

“To deport her weeks before she completes her degree in electrical engineering and to remove her from the community that supports her seems draconian and harms both her and our church community.”

A Home Office spokesman said that they did not routinely comment on individual cases. “Where people establish a genuine need for protection or a well-founded fear of persecution refuge will be granted.

“If someone is found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.”

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